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Endocarditis in Children


What is endocarditis?

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your child's heart. It may also affect the valves in his heart.

Heart Chambers

What causes endocarditis?

A child born with certain heart problems has an increased risk for endocarditis. Endocarditis is most often caused by a bacterial infection. It may also be caused by viral, fungal, or parasitic infections. Bacteria or other germs may enter his bloodstream and get to his heart in the following ways:

  • Heart surgery such as a valve replacement
  • Dental procedures
  • Long-term urinary or IV catheters
  • Implanted devices such as a ventricular-atrial shunt or defibrillator

What are the signs and symptoms of endocarditis?

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Headaches, body aches, or joint pain
  • A fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Swelling in his legs, feet, or ankles
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Poor appetite
  • A rash

How is endocarditis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about his symptoms. Tell him if your child has any medical conditions or takes any medicines. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Blood and urine tests are used to check for infection.
  • An EKG records your child's heart rhythm and how fast his heart beats. It is used to check for heart problems.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound that checks for infection in your child's heart. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your child's heart. Your child may need a transthoracic or transesophageal echocardiogram. Ask your child's healthcare provider about these types of echocardiograms.

How is endocarditis treated?

Your child will need monitoring and treatment in the hospital. Medicine will be given to treat the infection. Medicine may be given to manage heart problems caused by endocarditis. These may include medicines to decrease stress on his heart or strengthen his heart. Surgery may be needed to repair or replace a damaged heart valve. Procedures may also be needed to remove an infected IV catheter or implanted device.

What can I do to care for my child?

  • Have your child rest as directed. Some activities may put too much stress on your child's heart. Ask his healthcare provider which activities are safe for him to do. Also ask when he can return to his normal activities.
  • Do not let your older child smoke. Do not smoke near your child. Keep your child away from others who smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make it hard to heal from endocarditis. These substances can also increase your child's risk for damage to his heart valves. Ask your child's healthcare provider for information if you or your child currently smokes and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your child's healthcare provider before he uses these products.
  • Care for your child's intravenous (IV) catheter. Your child may go home with an IV catheter. This catheter can be used to give him IV antibiotic medicine at home. A home health nurse may give him the IV medicine or may teach you how to give the medicine. Ask his healthcare provider for information on how to care for his IV catheter.

How can I help prevent endocarditis in my child?

  • Keep your child's teeth and gums healthy. Have your child brush his teeth 2 to 3 times every day. It is best to brush his teeth after meals. Gently brush his teeth and gums with a clean toothbrush that has soft bristles. Take your child to the dentist every 6 months. Tell your child's dentist that he has had endocarditis.
  • Ask your child's healthcare provider if he should take antibiotics before procedures. Some procedures may cause bacteria to get into your child's blood and travel to his heart. He may need antibiotic medicine before a procedure to prevent this.
  • Carry a wallet card that says your child is at risk for endocarditis: This card will alert healthcare providers that your child is at risk for endocarditis. It will also help them decide if he needs antibiotics before a procedure or in an emergency. You can get this card through the American Heart Association.
    • American Heart Association
      7272 Greenville Avenue
      Dallas , TX 75231-4596
      Phone: 1- 800 - 242-8721
      Web Address:

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has a bad headache, vomiting, or a fever.
  • Your child has sudden weakness in an arm or leg, or trouble walking.
  • Your child has sudden trouble speaking.
  • Your child suddenly cannot use one side of his body.
  • Your child has severe chest pain.
  • Your child has sudden trouble breathing or shortness of breath while lying down.
  • Your child's heart is beating faster than normal.
  • Your child loses consciousness or cannot be woken.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has new or increased swelling in his feet or ankles.
  • Your child feels dizzy or faints.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child will not eat or has a poor appetite.
  • Your child is weak.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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