Bacterial Endocarditis: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Picture of anatomy of the heart

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 a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You cough up pink, foamy mucus and you have trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

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

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You have a fast or irregular heartbeat.

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

  • You develop a new rash or changes in your fingernails.
  • You start to feel like you did when you first got sick.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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