Bacterial endocarditis is infection and inflammation of the inner surface of the heart. It usually affects the heart valves but can also be present on pacemakers or defibrillators. Endocarditis occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and attach to an already damaged portion of the heart or valves.
Signs and symptoms of bacterial endocarditis can be fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, rash, headache, backache, shortness of breath, congestive heart failure, joint pains and confusion. During a medical exam a doctor may hear a new heart murmur or see certain changes in the nails, skin or eyes. If a physician suspects bacterial endocarditis, blood cultures and an echocardiogram should be performed to help make the correct diagnosis.
If bacterial endocarditis is diagnosed, it requires aggressive antibiotic treatment. If leftundiagnosed or untreated it could lead to heart valve damage or death. In addition, small pieces of bacterial vegetation can break off and travel through the blood to the brain, eyes, lungs, liver or intestine, causing a stroke, lack of blood supply (or infarction) to those organs.
If you or someone close to you developed bacterial endocarditis that was undiagnosed or untreated, you may want to find an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation and more information.