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Heart Infection (Bacterial Endocarditis): Prevention

What is bacterial endocarditis?

Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the thin layer of tissue lining the inside of the heart. The infection can also damage the heart valves. If a heart valve is badly damaged, the heart has to work harder and may get bigger. Your child may not be able to exercise as much as he used to. The infection could travel from the heart to other parts of the body, causing other problems, such as damage to the kidneys.

Some types of heart defect or heart disease may make it easier for your child’s heart to get infected. Your child’s healthcare provider may advise that your child take antibiotics before some procedures to help prevent infection.

Endocarditis is most often caused by an infection that starts in another part of your child’s body and is spread through your child’s bloodstream to his heart. Procedures that may cause bleeding are more likely to allow bacteria to get into the bloodstream.

Antibiotics are recommended if:

  • Your child has an artificial heart valve.
  • Your child has an artificial conduit (tube) carrying blood.
  • Your child has an has had heart surgery in the past 6 months.
  • The lining of the heart hasn’t healed after an artificial patch was placed.

When should my child take antibiotics?

Dental Work

Your child’s healthcare provider may recommend antibiotics before dental treatments that may cause bleeding in the mouth, such as:

  • Cleaning the teeth
  • Cutting tissue
  • Probing the gums
  • Pulling teeth
  • Putting a tooth back in after it was knocked out
  • Other types of dental surgery

Usually your child will not need to take antibiotics if there will be no bleeding. Dental work that usually does not cause bleeding includes:

  • Filling cavities
  • Getting a shot to numb the mouth
  • Adjusting braces
  • Getting fluoride treatments

Antibiotics are not needed when your child loses baby teeth.

Medical Procedures

Your child’s healthcare provider may recommend antibiotics before surgeries and procedures. Always talk to your provider if you have any questions. Be sure to tell your provider if your child is allergic to any medicines.

Written by Robert M. Brayden, MD, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2017-06-14
Last reviewed: 2018-05-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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