Bacterial Endocarditis in Children

March 28, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Although relatively rare, heart conditions caused by infection, including bacterial endocarditis, are very serious when they do occur. Bacterial endocarditis in children is often treatable through antibiotics, or in some cases surgery, but there are specialized care needs in the immediate and long-term recovery period. Understanding the potential complications and treatment options can help ensure the best possible outcome if your child has been diagnosed with this condition.

Bacterial endocarditis gets its name from the endocardium, which is the name for the lining of the heart and heart valves. If a bacterial infection develops in the blood, it can cause infection and inflammation of the endocardium, which is known as bacterial endocarditis.

In addition to the symptoms it causes, a bacterial infection in the heart can also increase the risk of permanent heart damage. In the most severe cases, infection-related heart inflammation can be life-threatening. This is why it is so important to be proactive and consistent about treatment and care of bacterial endocarditis in any younger patient.

Bacterial Endocarditis Causes

There are a number of factors that can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream and infecting and inflaming the endocardium. Potential causes of bacterial endocarditis in children can include:

  • Surgical complications, including procedures in the heart and lungs, tonsils, and adenoids
  • An underlying congenital heart defect
  • Infection due to dental work
  • A compromised or weakened immune system
  • Untreated infections

Due to these causes, certain children are at a higher risk of developing bacterial endocarditis. Children with birth defects, immune disorders, an artificial heart valve, an indwelling central venous catheter, and pre-existing heart damage have an elevated chance of becoming infected by bacteria in the bloodstream.

Bacterial Endocarditis Symptoms

Symptoms can vary but are often described as flu-like and may have a slow or sudden onset. The most commonly reported signs and indicators of bacterial endocarditis in children include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Sweating, including night sweats
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Swelling throughout the body, including the arms, legs, and abdomen
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in skin tone to a more pale appearance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Bumps under the skin of the extremities and spots on the palms and soles
  • Small spots due to broken blood vessels in the eyes, under nails, in the chest, or in the mouth
  • Blood in the urine

It is important to seek immediate assistance from a doctor if any of these symptoms are encountered in a child. Long-term complications that increase in risk due to delayed treatment include blood clots, heart failure, kidney disease, and the infection spreading to other parts of the heart.

Diagnosing Bacterial Endocarditis

In addition to standard diagnostic procedures such as a review of medical history, questions about symptoms, and a physical examination, additional testing is often needed to confirm bacterial endocarditis. These tests may include:

  • Echocardiogram, or echo, which uses sound waves to check the structure and function of the heart
  • Blood culture test, to detect bacterial infection in the blood
  • Complete blood count, to check the health and function of all the blood cells present

Diagnosing and treating bacterial endocarditis will usually involve the assistance of specialists, including pediatric cardiologists, and infectious disease specialists in some cases.

Bacterial Endocarditis Treatment Options

Treatment will depend on the severity of the infection, the age of the child, and other factors. The two most common treatment approaches are antibiotic medication and surgery. Antibiotics are usually administered intravenously in a hospital setting and then continued at home for a period of four to eight weeks. It is essential to completely follow any antibiotic regimen as directed to ensure the infection is fully eliminated.

Surgery to replace an infected heart valve may be required in the most serious cases. Due to the risk of infection and complications from heart surgery, this is usually a last resort for bacterial endocarditis in children.

Caring for a Child with Bacterial Endocarditis

Reducing the risk of reinfection or a secondary infection requires careful monitoring. Caregivers need to attend all follow-up appointments, ensure children take all medication as directed, practice good hygiene, including oral hygiene, and get plenty of rest. For many families, pediatric home health services can play a beneficial role in achieving the best possible outcome for bacterial endocarditis in their children.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.