Heart and Blood Conditions

Endocarditis Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Endocarditis

The symptoms of endocarditis can vary depending on the germ that caused the infection and how severe it is. Your child's symptoms may also depend on whether they already had a heart problem before getting the infection.

Many symptoms of endocarditis resemble other illness, such as the flu, but usually last longer than the flu.

Endocarditis in children may cause one or more of these symptoms:

  • Prolonged or recurrent fevers (for more than five days, or even weeks)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Achy joints
  • Small, dark spots on their hands or feet (either small painful bumps or small painless flat spots), purple-red pinpoints under their skin or dark lines under their nails

Endocarditis can lead to other problems in the body. It can damage heart valves and cause heart failure.

Clumps of bacteria and other cells can break off from an infected area in the heart and travel through the blood stream. This can lead to infection in another part of the body, such as the lungs, brain or kidneys. Or a clump can clog a blood vessel, blocking blood flow. These complications can cause symptoms of their own and can be serious.

Endocarditis Diagnosis

To diagnose this condition, your doctor will examine your child to see if there are signs of cardiac injury from infection or evidence that clumps of bacteria are being ejected from the heart.

The doctor will ask for details about any symptoms your child has, their health history and your family health history.

Two critical tests are almost always used together to diagnose endocarditis. One is called blood cultures, and the other is called an echocardiogram.

Blood cultures are tests used to find the bacteria causing endocarditis. Finding the exact type of bacteria causing the infection allows us to design the best treatment plan. To get this blood for culture, your child will need a needle poke into a vein. Sometimes, we will need to insert a catheter (small tube) into a vein to collect the blood. Heelstick and fingerstick blood can't be used because bacteria living on the skin will contaminate the sample.

Echocardiography ("echo") is the test that cardiologists use to examine the inside of the heart for signs of bacteria growing. One important echo sign is a "vegetation." A "vegetation" is a visible clump of bacteria and cells attached to the lining of the heart or valves. Echos can also show when a cardiac valve has been injured.

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a cardiac referral, a second opinion or more information.