Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


3-minute read

Endocarditis is a rare but serious condition caused by infection of the inner lining of the heart. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, most people can recover, but the condition can be fatal.

What causes endocarditis?

Endocarditis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. It is also called infective endocarditis or bacterial endocarditis.

Bacteria can reach the heart:

  • through the mouth after a dental procedure or after regular brushing and flossing
  • after surgery or other medical procedures
  • through the skin, digestive system or urinary tract

Bacteria in the bloodstream are more likely to infect a heart that already has some damage. This might have been present at birth (congenital) or caused by disease.

The following also increase your risk of developing endocarditis:

  • surgery or other procedures in a hospital or clinic
  • a problem with the valves in your heart
  • a prosthetic heart valve or a pacemaker
  • problems with your teeth and gums
  • illicit drug or medicine misuse by injection
  • an immune system that doesn't work as well as it should

Endocarditis symptoms

Endocarditis symptoms can develop over a few days or several weeks. Symptoms include:

If you develop any of these symptoms, especially if you are at high risk, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Although many of the symptoms also have other causes, endocarditis must be diagnosed and treated rapidly. About one third of people who develop endocarditis die within a year. Early diagnosis makes effective treatment much easier.

Endocarditis diagnosis

Your doctor will consider your medical history and physical symptoms, and will examine you. You are likely to have:

  • an electrocardiogram (ECG) to see how well your heart is working
  • multiple blood tests to check on the health of your organs and to look for signs of infection
  • a chest x-ray
  • an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of your heart

You might also have other imaging tests such as a PET scan.

Endocarditis treatment

Endocarditis is a serious and complex condition. If diagnosed, you will need to be treated in hospital, at least initially, and might be in an intensive care unit. You might see a range of doctors, including a cardiologist, a microbiologist, an infectious diseases specialist and a surgeon.

The main treatment for endocarditis is antibiotics, initially through an intravenous (IV) drip. You will have repeated blood tests, x-rays and other imaging tests to monitor your progress. Some people with endocarditis need surgery to remove infected tissue and to rebuild or replace damaged heart valves.

Endocarditis can recur, so your health will be monitored for the following year or so. You’ll learn how to reduce the chance of reinfection and how to recognise it if it occurs.

Endocarditis prevention

Measures to help prevent endocarditis include:

  • observing good hygiene practices in hospitals and health clinics
  • observing good dental hygiene to reduce the risk of bacteria entering through the mouth
  • for people at high risk of endocarditis, having preventative antibiotics before invasive dental procedures

When to seek help

If you are at risk of endocarditis, you should talk to your doctor for more information about prevention.

If you develop any of the above symptoms, especially if you are at high risk, you should see your doctor as soon as possible or go to the nearest emergency department.

More information

The UK National Health Service has more information on endocarditis.

The Heart Foundation has information on heart disease in general.

Last reviewed: May 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Infective Endocarditis (IE) | myVMC

Infective endocarditis is an infection (usually bacterial, occasionally fungal) of the endocardium (the inner lining of the heart)

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Heart conditions - endocarditis - Better Health Channel

Endocarditis is an infection of the heart valves or the inner lining of the heart.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Aortic Regurgitation (AR) | myVMC

Aortic regurgitation is reflux of blood from the aorta (the big vessel carrying blood out of the heart)

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Mitral Regurgitation (MR) | myVMC

Acute mitral regurgitation is a disorder in which the hearts mitral valve (between the left aftrium and left ventricle) does not close properly, causing blood to leak (back-flow) into the left atrium (upper heart chamber) when the left ventricle (lower heart chamber) contracts

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Heart murmur - Better Health Channel

Many children have innocent heart murmurs that don?t require any treatment, but medical tests are often needed to check.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Tricuspid Valvular Disease | myVMC

Tricuspid Valvular Disease is a disease of the heart, namely the tricuspid valve between the right ventricle and right atrium

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Mitral Stenosis (MS) | myVMC

Mitral stenosis is a narrowing or obstruction of the opening of the mitral valve, which separates the upper (left arium) and lower chamber (left ventricle) on the left side of the heart

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Kidney Disease and Infection (nephropathies) | myVMC

Kidney disease is often caused by hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. It affects the glomeruli which filter waste from blood.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Vancomycin - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for vancomycin

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo