Risk of endocarditis

Characteristics that place a person at an increased risk for developing endocarditis include:

  • Being older than 60 (although endocarditis can occur at any age).
  • Being male. More men than women develop the condition, especially as they get older.
  • Having any history of endocarditis.
  • Having hemodialysis, which is a treatment to clean the blood, for people with kidney failure.
  • Having abnormal or damaged heart valves.
  • Having artificial heart valves.
  • Having other structural heart problems or dysfunctions that may affect normal blood flow through the heart. Abnormal blood flow may increase the chance that bacteria or fungi will attach to heart tissue. These bacteria or fungi then grow and multiply, causing an area of infection. Examples of structural heart problems include:
  • Using illegal intravenous drugs. People who use these drugs increase their risk for developing endocarditis because needles are often not sterile. Unclean needles introduce bacteria and fungi directly into the bloodstream, which can then infect the heart.
  • Having an HIV infection.

You are not at greater risk for endocarditis than the general public if you have:

  • Certain repaired congenital heart defects. Talk with your health professional if you have any kind of congenital heart defect to determine your risk for developing endocarditis.
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (bypass surgery, or CABG).
  • Previous rheumatic fever without heart valve damage.
  • A pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).
  • Uncomplicated heart attacks.
  • Mitral valve prolapse that occurs without mitral valve regurgitation or unusually thickened valve leaflets.
  • A coronary artery stent.

Last Updated: April 16, 2009

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