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July 3, 2018

Management Considerations in Infective Endocarditis: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
  • 2Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
  • 3Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
JAMA. 2018;320(1):72-83. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.7596

Importance  Infective endocarditis occurs in approximately 15 of 100 000 people in the United States and has increased in incidence. Clinicians must make treatment decisions with respect to prophylaxis, surgical management, specific antibiotics, and the length of treatment in the setting of emerging, sometimes inconclusive clinical research findings.

Observations  Community–associated infective endocarditis remains the predominant form of the disease; however, health care accounts for one-third of cases in high-income countries. As medical interventions are increasingly performed on older patients, the disease incidence from cardiac implanted electronic devices is also increasing. In addition, younger patients involved with intravenous drug use has increased in the past decade and with it the proportion of US hospitalization has increased to more than 10%. These epidemiological factors have led to Staphylococcus aureus being the most common cause in high-income countries, accounting for up to 40% of cases. The mainstays of diagnosis are still echocardiography and blood cultures. Adjunctive imaging such as cardiac computed tomographic and nuclear imaging can improve the sensitivity for diagnosis when echocardiography is not conclusive. Serological studies, histopathology, and polymerase chain reaction assays have distinct roles in the diagnosis of infective endocarditis when blood culture have tested negative with the highest yield obtained from serological studies. Increasing antibiotic resistance, particularly to S aureus, has led to a need for different antibiotic treatment options such as newer antibiotics and combination therapy regimens. Surgery can confer a survival benefit to patients with major complications; however, the decision to pursue surgery must balance the risks and benefits of operations in these frequently high-risk patients.

Conclusions and Relevance  The epidemiology and management of infective endocarditis are continually changing. Guidelines provide specific recommendations about management; however, careful attention to individual patient characteristics, pathogen, and risk of sequela must be considered when making therapeutic decisions.