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Infective endocarditis (IE) is an infection of the lining of the heart or heart valves. It used to be known as bacterial endocarditis. IE can cause serious damage to the heart. For this reason, it must be treated right away. If your child has a heart problem, be sure to check with your child’s doctor about how to prevent this infection.
IE can occur in any child. But the risk is increased if a child has certain heart problems. These include:
An abnormal or damaged heart valve
A problem heart valve that has been replaced with an artificial valve
Certain congenital (present at birth) heart defects
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickened heart muscle)
IE occurs when bacteria (germs) enter the bloodstream and become attached to the heart. A child with a heart problem is more likely to have areas in the heart that can get easily infected. The most common ways bacteria can enter the bloodstream are through certain dental and medical procedures. They can also enter the bloodstream through infections in other parts of the body.
Symptoms of IE vary for each child. They can include:
Fever and chills
Blood in the urine
Muscle aches and pain
If IE is suspected, your child will likely be referred to a doctor called a pediatric cardiologist. This is a doctor with special training to diagnose and treat heart problems in children. The doctor will ask about your child’s health history and symptoms. The doctor will also examine your child. Tests are often done as well. These can include:
Blood tests. Several blood samples are taken within 24 hours. These are checked for bacteria.
Echocardiography (echo). Sound waves (ultrasound) are used to create a picture of the heart. This allows the doctor to check for signs of infection and problems with heart structure and heart function.
Treatment consists of antibiotics given through an IV line. This may be needed for as long as 6 weeks. Treatment is started in the hospital. But it may be completed in the hospital or at home. Blood tests are done during the course of the treatment. These help ensure the infection is no longer in the bloodstream.
In certain cases, surgery may have to be done. Your child’s doctor will tell you more about this treatment, if needed.
Know the signs and symptoms of IE. Tell your child’s doctor right away if you suspect your child is ill due to IE.
Teach your child good oral hygiene. Make sure your child brushes and flosses daily. Also, schedule regular teeth cleanings for your child.
Tell all of your child’s health care providers that your child is at risk for IE. Your child may need to take antibiotics before and after certain dental or medical treatments are done. This helps reduce the risk of infection.
Call the doctor right away if your child has any of the following:
In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher
In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older
A seizure caused by the fever
Shortness of breath
Severe pain in the belly, lower back, or side