Bacterial Endocarditis

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The cardiovascular system is the system that keeps life pumping through you with its complex pathways of veins, arteries, and capillaries. The heart, blood vessels, and blood help to transport vital nutrients throughout the body as well as remove metabolic waste. They also help to protect the body and regulate body temperature. Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the inner surface of the heart or the heart valves caused by bacteria usually found in the mouth, intestinal tract or urinary tract. This infection results in a serious illness which requires prolonged treatment and on occasion produces injury to the heart or even death. Endocarditis is a major concern in almost all unrepaired congenital heart defects as well as in most repaired defects with a few exceptions. Endocarditis is characterized by a prototypic lesion, the vegetation, which is a mass of platelets, fibrin, microcolonies of microorganisms, and scant inflammatory cells. In the subacute form of infective endocarditis, the vegetation may also include a center of granulomatous tissue (roughly spherical mass of chronic immune cells) which may fibrose or calcify. Endocarditis can generally be preventable with simple measures.

Endocarditis occurs when bacteria grow on the edges of a heart defect or on the surface of an abnormal valve after the bacteria enter the blood stream, most commonly from dental procedures but also from procedures involving the gastrointestinal or urinary tract. Symptoms and signs of endocarditis vary but a fever more then 2-3 days without an obvious cause is a most important sign and should always be investigated in a child with congenital heart disease. Other signs and symptoms include poor appetite, feeling weak or tired, joint pains, skin rashes, and changes in the nature of a previously present heart murmur. The chance that these signs and symptoms are caused by endocarditis is more likely if they occur soon after a dental cleaning or procedure involving the...
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