Endocarditis | Symptoms & Treatment | MedStar Health

A serious infection that can damage the heart valves

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves. It occurs when bacteria in the bloodstream attach to vulnerable areas of the heart. If left untreated, this infection can result in irreversible damage to the heart valves or lead to heart failure, stroke, pulmonary embolism, or kidney damage.


The symptoms may resemble less serious conditions, such as the flu. These symptoms, which may come and go or be present for several days, may include fever, chills, and aches and pains in the joints or muscles.

Other symptoms you may experience include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Bleeding under the nails
  • Edema or swelling

  • Heart murmur

  • Janeway lesions, or red spots on the soles and palms
  • Petechiae, purple or red spots on the skin, eyes, or mouth
  • Osler's nodes, which are red, painful spots on fingers and toes
  • Spleen pain on your left side


There are many factors that can result in endocarditis, so the exact cause may not be identified. Factors that can increase your risk of endocarditis are:

  • Artificial heart valves
  • Bacterial infections
  • Catheters or IV lines
  • Congenital heart defects

  • Dental care or procedures
  • Heart damage or defects
  • History of previous endocarditis
  • Needle contact from tattoos, body piercing, or illegal drug use


Because this infection can have many causes, your doctor will likely perform multiple tests before confirming a diagnosis. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


Treating this infection is important to stop irreversible damage to your heart. You will likely receive antibiotics to fight the infection, and if the valve damage is severe, you may require surgery to repair or replace the valve.

Infective Endocarditis Surgery

Infective endocarditis surgery is the removal of infected heart tissue and repair or replacement of damaged heart valves.

Structural Heart and Valve Disease Treatments

Structural heart and valve disease treatments address defects or abnormalities with the heart’s muscle or valves with or without surgery.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.