Endocarditis

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Endocarditis is an inflammation of the endocardium, which is the inner lining of the heart. Endocarditis occurs when bacteria in the bloodstream attach to damaged areas of the heart, such as the valves and chordae tendinae. It is characterized by a microcolonies of bacteria and fungi, and inflammatory cells. If left untreated, endocarditis can damage the heart valves and lead to life-threatening cardiac complications.

The symptoms of endocarditis are: weakness, tiredness, fever, night sweat, and heart murmur. The heart conditions that could cause endocarditis include: heart damage (from Rheumatic Fever, for example), congenital heart defects, intravenous drug use, dental extraction, etc.

As heart valves do not receive direct blood irrigation, white blood cells cannot directly reach the valves through the bloodstream. So, if bacteria and fungi settle to a damaged valve surface, forming a vegetation, the host immune response is blunted. The lack of blood supply to the valves also has implications on treatment, since drugs also have difficulty reaching the infected valve. Usually, blood flows smoothly through these valves. Wehn the heart valves have been damaged by rheumatic fever, the risk of bacteria attachment is increased.