The endocardium is a thin layer of membrane (tissue) that covers the inner surface of the heart. Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of this membrane. Infection occurs when bacteria attach to the membrane and grow.

The infection is most common when the heart or valves have already been damaged. It can permanently damage the heart valves. This can lead to serious health problems, such as congestive heart failure. Bacterial endocarditis can be life-threatening.

Bacterial Endocarditis
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The infection can also cause growths on the valves or other areas of the heart. Pieces of these growths can break off and travel to other parts of the body. This can cause serious complications.

Bacteria can travel to the heart through the blood. It can enter the blood from an infection somewhere else in the body. It can also enter during an activity that causes breaks in the skin or tissues. This activity can be dental work, surgery, or IV drug use. Only certain bacteria cause this infection. The most common are:

  • Streptococci
  • Staphylococci
  • Enterococci

The bacteria may be able to attach to the endocardium. Some heart conditions can increase the chance of infections. These conditions may cause blood flow to be blocked or to pool. This provides a place for the bacteria to build up.