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What Is Endocarditis?

Endocarditis is a term which describes inflammation and/or infection of the lining (the endocardium) that comprises the inner surface of the heart. Endocarditis commonly affects heart valves, but may also involve non-valvular areas and/or mechanical devices that are implanted in the heart such as artificial heart valves, pacemakers, or implantable defibrillators.

Infective endocarditis is an uncommon but not rare disease, affecting about 10,000 - 20,000 persons in the United States each year. Although uncommon, it is important because endocarditis is a disease which despite antimicrobial therapy can result in serious complications such as stroke, the need for open heart surgery, or even death.

Mitral Valve Vegetation from a Surgical Specimen of Prosthetic Valve

This picture is of a vegetation on a mitral valve from a patient who had the mitral valve removed at surgery.
(Courtesy of Vance G. Fowler, Jr., MD, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC)
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