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Endocarditis

To diagnose endocarditis, your GP will look closely at your medical history, paying particular attention to any problems that you may have had with your heart.

To diagnose endocarditis, your GP will look closely at your medical history, paying particular attention to any problems you may have had with your heart.

Taking a medical history also allows your GP to identify whether you've undergone any recent medical procedures that may have put you at risk of developing endocarditis, such as surgery to the heart valves.

Physical examination

Your GP will check for the symptoms of endocarditis, such as fever or nodules (small lumps) on your fingers and toes.

They'll also listen to your heart using a stethoscope to see if you've developed a heart murmur. A heart murmur is where your heartbeat has an extra, or unusual, sound caused by a disturbed blood flow through the heart.

The symptoms of endocarditis are similar to those of other conditions, so it's important that other possible causes are ruled out. Sometimes, you may be referred for further tests.

Blood tests

Blood tests may be used to help diagnose endocarditis, or to help identify the most effective treatment. Blood tests may include:

  • a blood culture test – to check for a specific bacteria or fungi
  • an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test
  • a C reactive protein (CRP) test

ESR and CRP tests can be used to check for inflammation. About 90% of endocarditis patients have an elevated ESR or CRP.

Read more about different types of blood test.

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram uses sound waves to scan your heart. The waves can produce accurate images of the heart muscle, chambers and valves. This allows your doctor to examine the structure and function of your heart more closely.

An echocardiogram is often used to check for any clumps of bacteria that may have formed, and can help detect infected or damaged heart tissue.

These scans can be performed by either: 

  • directly placing a probe on your chest
  • swallowing a probe to allow your heart to be studied from inside the gullet (transoesophageal echo) 

The transoesophageal echo allows much clearer images of your heart as the gullet is just behind the heart.

Computerised tomography (CT) scan

computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays to take pictures of the inside of your body. A computer is then used to piece the images together.

A CT scan can be useful for identifying any abscesses (collections of pus) that may have developed in your body.


Abscesses
An abscess is a lump containing pus, which is made by the body during infection.
Antibiotics
Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria or fungi. For example amoxicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin.
Blood test
During a blood test a sample of blood is taken from a vein through a needle, so it can be examined in a laboratory.
Fever
A high temperature, also known as a fever, is when someone's body temperature goes above the normal 37°C (98.6°F).
Haemorrhage
To haemorrhage means to bleed or lose blood.
Heart valves
Heart valves are four sets of flaps that control the direction that blood pumps around the heart.
Nodules
A nodule is a small growth or lump of tissue.
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