Infective Endocarditis

What is Infective Endocarditis?

Infective endocarditis, also called bacterial endocarditis, is an infection caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and settle in the heart lining, a heart valve, or blood vessel. Infective endocarditis is uncommon, but people with some forms of congenital heart condition have a greater risk of developing it.

Infective endocarditis causes growths or holes on the valve or scaring of the valve tissue, most often resulting in a leaky heart valve. Without treatment, endocarditis is a fatal disease. In many cases of endocarditis, antibiotics alone can cure the infection.

Dental Procedures and Infective Endocarditis

Pressure from Heart Research UK has helped bring about a change in advice to dentists about giving antibiotics to heart patients undergoing dental treatment. Previously, the national health body NICE recommended that at-risk heart patients should no longer receive antibiotics cover during dental treatment. Our research has shown that there has since been an increase in cases of infective endocarditis since the ruling's introduction in 2008.

As a result, NICE has altered the guideline to allow flexibility so that dentists and cardiologists can recommend antibitoic cover when it is in the best interests of the patient. Make sure you discuss your options with your cardiologist and dentist before undergoing any dental procedure.

Those more at risk may be classed as people who have:

  • a prosthetic heart valve or who have had a heart valve repaired with prosthetic material

  • a history of endocarditis

  • a heart transplant with abnormal heart valve function

  • certain congenital defects including:

    • ​cyanotic congenital heart disease (birth defects with lower oxygen levels than normal) that has not been fully repaired, including children who have had surgical shunts and conduits

    • a congenital heart defect that has not been completely repaired with prosthetic material or a device for the first six months after the repair procedure

    • repaired congenital heart disease with residual defects, such as persisting leaks or abnormal flow at or adjacent to a prosthetic patch or prosthetic device

Please note, taking antibiotics just to prevent endocarditis is not recommended for patients who have procedures involving the reproductive, urinary or gastrointestinal tracts.

Brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly helps prevent tooth and gum infections that could lead to endocarditis.

Last Updated: October 11, 2017