Bacterial Endocarditis: Care Instructions

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Picture of anatomy of the heart

Your Care Instructions

Bacterial endocarditis (say "en-doh-kar-DY-tus") is an infection of the heart valves or inner lining of the heart. It is caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and settle on one or more of the heart valves. This can damage the valves. In some cases, surgery is needed to replace a damaged valve.

Antibiotics can cure bacterial endocarditis. You may take antibiotics for several weeks. Now that you have had the infection, you are at risk for getting it again. It is important that you let all your other health professionals-including your dentist-know that you have had bacterial endocarditis.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If you are taking IV antibiotics at home with the help of a home health nurse, the nurse will teach you how to use the antibiotics and how to care for your IV catheter. Make sure you are comfortable using and caring for the IV.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotic pills, take them exactly as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • In the future, you may have to take antibiotics before certain medical, dental, or surgical procedures. Ask your doctor or dentist about this, and do not have any of these procedures without talking to your doctor or dentist first. Your doctor can give you a card to carry in your wallet which states that you need preventive antibiotics before certain procedures.
  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing your teeth daily and by visiting a dentist twice each year. Make sure your dentist knows that you have had endocarditis.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of sudden heart failure. These may include:
    • Severe trouble breathing.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
    • You passed out.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new or higher fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have skin or nail changes.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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