What is it?

Endocarditis is a serious infection of one of the four heart valves. It infects the inner lining of the heart (endocardium) and occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of the body travel through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of the heart. 

Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Endocarditis is caused by germs from bacteria, fungi or other microorganisms, which enter into the bloodstream, travel to the heart, attach to abnormal heart valves or damaged heart tissue. The organisms live in parts of your body or may enter the bloodstream through:

  • Everyday activities such as eating or brushing teeth
  • An infection or medical condition
  • A medical procedure
  • Catheters or needles
  • Certain dental procedures when the gums are cut

Endocarditis may develop slowly or quickly depending on the underlying reason for the infection or if underlying heart problems are present. Symptoms of endocarditis are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Fainting
  • Weakness
  • Aching joints or muscles
  • Edema in the leg(s), foot (feet), or abdomen
  • A new or changed heart murmur
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness
  • Persistent cough
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in urine
  • Anemia
  • Red, tender spots under the skin of fingers (Osler’s nodes)
  • Tiny purple or red spots on skin, whites of eyes or inside mouth (Petechiae)
  • Tenderness in your spleen

Usually, the immune system destroys bacteria that travels into the bloodstream, and may pass through the heart without causing an infection. The germs tend to cause infection and multiply in damaged or surgically implanted heart valves. Also at risk are people with congenital heart defects, history of endocarditis or history of illegal intravenous (IV) drugs.

Our Services (Tests, Procedures and Treatments)

Diagnostic testing and procedures are the first step in establishing a treatment strategy. Doctors may order tests or perform the following procedures:


Left untreated, endocarditis can damage or destroy the heart valves and can lead to life threatening complications. Treatment includes aggressive antibiotics given intravenously. If the heart valve is damaged by the infections, surgery may be necessary.

St. Luke's Heart & Vascular