What are the presenting symptoms of infective endocarditis (IE)?

Updated: Jan 03, 2019
  • Author: John L Brusch, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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In patients with infective endocarditis (IE), the present illness history is highly variable. Symptoms commonly are vague, emphasizing constitutional complaints, or complaints may focus on primary cardiac effects or secondary embolic phenomena. Fever and chills are the most common symptoms; anorexia, weight loss, malaise, headache, myalgias, night sweats, shortness of breath, cough, or joint pains are common complaints as well.

Primary cardiac disease may present with signs of congestive heart failure due to valvular insufficiency. Secondary phenomena could include focal neurologic complaints due to an embolic stroke or back pain associated with vertebral osteomyelitis. As many as 20% of cases present with focal neurologic complaints and stroke syndromes.

Dyspnea, cough, and chest pain are common complaints of intravenous drug users. This is likely related to the predominance of tricuspid valve endocarditis in this group and secondary embolic showering of the pulmonary vasculature.

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