What are the characteristics and complications of pacemaker infective endocarditis (IE)?

Updated: Jan 03, 2019
  • Author: John L Brusch, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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The clinical presentation in a person with a pacemaker infection and pacemaker IE depends on several factors, including the site of infection (eg, generator pocket vs intravascular leads or epicardial leads), the type of organism, and the origin of the infection (eg, pocket erosion, localized infection of the generator pocket, bacteremia from a remote site). The risk of developing IE is directly associated with the complexity of the permanent pacemaker. The risk associated with internal cardiac defibrillators was almost twice that of single-chamber pacemakers. Mortality also was greater in the former group. [39]

Half of cases of right-sided IE associated with a cardiac device are due to coagulase-negative staphylococci. [40]

Early infections, within a few months of implantation, manifest as acute or subacute infections of the pulse-generator pocket. Bacteremia may be present even in the absence of clinical signs and symptoms. Fever is the most common finding and may be the only finding in approximately 33% of patients.

Late infections of the pocket may be due to erosion of the overlying skin without systemic involvement. Such erosions always indicate infection of the underlying device.

The most significant late infections involve the transvenous or epicardial leads. With epicardial infection, signs and symptoms of pericarditis or mediastinitis may be present along with bacteremia. Infection of the transvenous electrode produces signs and symptoms of right-sided endocarditis. Those that occur early after implantation (33% of cases) show prominent systemic signs of infection, often with obvious localization to the pacemaker pocket.

Late infections have much more subtle manifestations. They may occur up to several years after implantation or reimplantation.

Fever is almost universal in persons with pacemaker IE. Signs of right-sided endocarditis (ie, pneumonia, septic emboli) are observed in up to 50% of patients.

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