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Who Is At Risk for Endocarditis?

Infective endocarditis (IE) is an uncommon condition that can affect both children and adults. It's more common in men than women.

IE typically affects people who have abnormal hearts or other conditions that put them at risk for the infection. Sometimes IE does affect people who were healthy before the infection.

Major Risk Factors

The germs that cause IE tend to attach and multiply on damaged, malformed, or artificial (man-made) heart valves and implanted medical devices. Certain conditions put you at higher risk for IE. These include:

  • Congenital heart defects (defects that are present at birth). Examples include a malformed heart or abnormal heart valves.
  • Artificial heart valves, an implanted medical device in the heart (such as a pacemaker wire), or an intravenous (IV) catheter (tube) in a blood vessel for a long time.
  • Heart valves damaged by rheumatic fever or calcium deposits that cause age-related valve thickening. Scars in the heart from a previous case of IE also can damage heart valves.
  • IV drug use, especially if needles are shared or reused, contaminated substances are injected, or the skin isn't properly cleaned before injection.
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Last Updated: October 1, 2010