What Is Prosthetic Valve Endocarditis

What is Prosthetic Valve Endocarditis?

What is Prosthetic Valve Endocarditis?

Prosthetic valve endocarditis (PVE) refers to an infection that occurs in the heart’s prosthetic valves, which are artificial valves implanted surgically to replace damaged or malfunctioning native valves. PVE is a serious and potentially life-threatening complication that can occur in patients who have undergone valve replacement surgeries.

The Causes and Risk Factors

PVE can be caused by various microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and rarely, viruses. The most common bacteria associated with PVE are Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci. Other bacteria, such as streptococci and enterococci, may also be involved.

The risk factors for developing PVE include underlying heart diseases, such as valvular heart disease or congenital heart defects, previous episodes of infective endocarditis, immunosuppression, diabetes mellitus, intravenous drug use, and mechanical valve replacement. Additionally, the prosthetic valve type (mechanical or bioprosthetic) and the duration since valve replacement surgery can also influence the risk of PVE.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of PVE can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the individual patient. Common symptoms include fever, chills, night sweats, fatigue, new or changing heart murmurs, shortness of breath, chest pain, and signs of embolization (sudden blockage of blood vessels by the detached infected material).

The diagnosis of PVE involves a combination of clinical findings, blood cultures, and imaging studies. Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is often the imaging modality of choice due to its high sensitivity and specificity in detecting infective vegetations on the valves.

Treatment and Complications

The treatment of PVE typically involves a combination of surgical intervention (valve replacement or repair) and prolonged antibiotic therapy. The choice of antibiotics depends on the identified microorganism and its susceptibility to specific drugs.

Despite advances in medical and surgical treatments, PVE still carries a significant morbidity and mortality rate. Complications associated with PVE include congestive heart failure, systemic embolization, abscess formation, heart rhythm disturbances, and persistent infection even after treatment.

The Impact of PVE

PVE not only poses a significant threat to the affected individuals but also places a substantial burden on the healthcare system. The management of PVE requires specialized medical expertise, surgical interventions, and often lengthy hospitalizations. The financial cost of treating PVE can be substantial, impacting both individuals and healthcare providers.

Furthermore, the emotional and psychological toll on patients and their families should not be overlooked. Coping with a potentially life-threatening infection, undergoing invasive procedures, and facing the uncertainty of treatment outcomes can lead to immense stress and anxiety.

Prevention Strategies

Prevention strategies play a crucial role in reducing the incidence of PVE. Proper dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, is essential to reduce the risk of oral infections that can spread to the heart valves. Antibiotic prophylaxis before dental procedures is recommended for individuals at high risk of developing infective endocarditis, including those with artificial heart valves.

Strict adherence to aseptic techniques during cardiac surgery is also critical to minimize the risk of introducing microorganisms into the bloodstream. Additionally, optimizing patients’ overall health, managing underlying conditions effectively, and promoting healthy lifestyle choices can contribute to preventing PVE.


Prosthetic valve endocarditis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that affects individuals who have undergone valve replacement surgeries. The causes, symptoms, and treatment options associated with PVE are complex and require a multidisciplinary approach to ensure the best outcomes for patients.

While significant advancements have been made in the management of PVE, there is still a need for further research to improve preventive strategies and enhance treatment options. Increased awareness among both healthcare professionals and the general public is essential in recognizing the early signs and symptoms of PVE, leading to timely diagnosis and intervention.

By implementing preventive measures, investing in research, and supporting individuals affected by PVE, we can work towards reducing the burden of this condition and improving the overall quality of life for patients with prosthetic heart valves.

Colleen Hoeppner

Colleen M. Hoeppner is a passionate advocate for people with prosthetic needs. Colleen is dedicated to helping those who require prosthetic devices to maintain their quality of life, offering resources, advice, and support. Her writing focuses on helping people understand the complexities of prosthetic technology and make informed decisions about their care.

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