Patients with CHD are at an increased risk of a serious infection of the heart, called endocarditis.
Endocarditis means infection of the heart (usually the heart valves) which is serious and can be life-threatening. Bacteria can destroy the heart valves and spread infection to other major organs in the body including the lungs, brain, liver, and kidneys.
The most common source of bacteria is our mouths. That’s right! Bacteria love to find a home between our teeth and in our gums. From here, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to our heart. Dental cavities are the perfect home for bacteria and also allow easy entry into the bloodstream. You can think of the bloodstream as the highway to your heart. Naturally, you want clean traffic, not dirty bacteria, travelling to the heart.
Additional sources of potential bacterial infection include acupuncture and other skin penetration procedures such as tattoos and piercings. Tattoos and piercings can become infected and lead to bacteria entering the blood stream. When you have CHD, it’s important to discuss tattoos and piercings with your doctor before getting them. IV drug users also have a high rate of endocarditis, especially if they share needles or use dirty needles.
People with CHD are more likely to get endocarditis because they may have valve problems, artificial valves, and abnormal blood flow in areas of the heart and lungs. Bacteria find it easier to infect the heart under these conditions.
For Everyone: Good dental cleaning
You can protect yourself by doing some simple things:
For Some People: Antibiotics before dental visits
Some patients with CHD should take antibiotics before seeing the dentist. This list of patients includes those with mechanical valves, artificial tubes (conduits), and those with low oxygen levels (cyanosis) or Eisenmenger Syndrome. A person who has had endocarditis in the past should also take antibiotics. If you’re not sure whether you should take antibiotics, you must discuss this with your cardiologist.
Never take antibiotics for a fever of unknown origin because you don't know what you're treating! Ask you doctor to do blood cultures before he/she prescribes any antibiotics for fever/infection of unknown origin!
A big clue that it could be endocarditis is having a fever (temperature>38ºC), sweats and chills, without a clear cause. If this ever happens, it is important to contact your cardiologist right away. Endocarditis can be easily missed so it’s important to get it checked out quickly.
Prevention is the goal. But some people do get endocarditis even though they have looked after their teeth and never had tattoos or piercings.
Treatment can include antibiotics to kill the bacteria and, if needed, surgery to remove the infected valve or tissue. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcomes.
This website is designed specifically for young people with congenital heart disease. The goal is to provide information to help people who are getting ready to move (or have recently moved) to adult heart care. We use the term ‘transition’ to describe this process. Family, friends and health care providers may also find this website helpful.
Please be advised this site does not provide medical advice. All of the content on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have or suspect you have a health problem, please consult your family physician. If you have or suspect you are experiencing a health emergency, please promptly visit a Hospital Emergency Department in your area. Reliance on any information provided on or provided in relation to the site is solely at your own risk. Contributors to this website are not responsible, nor liable, for any claim, loss or damage arising from the use of the information contained within this site.
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We have a simple ‘Getting to Know You’ survey that we ask all visitors to complete (we don’t ask for any personal health information). Website browsing activity will be monitored so that we can learn about the people who visit the website, how often people visit the website, and the web pages that are visited most often. This will help us decide which changes and improvements to make to the website in the future. Results from this project will be described for groups of website visitors (i.e., not for individual users).
Anyone can visit this website and most users will create their own User IDs and passwords. However, there are also Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) and pediatric cardiology programs that have officially joined the iHeartChange team and work together to keep this website going. (You can find a list of the ACHD programs in the ‘Welcome to Adult Care’ section of the website). Some of these programs might choose to assign User IDs so that they can track of and how patients from their own programs visit the website. They might even want to track this for research. If you have been assigned a User ID from a program, that program might ask us to give them information about your answers to the ‘Getting to Know You’ survey, how many times you log into the website and which web pages you visit.
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If you visit them all, you can earn a transition diploma!
If you register, it also means that you won’t be shown the disclaimer & survey each time that you visit.
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HELPING YOU MAKE THE MOVE TO ADULT CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE CARE
Thanks for checking out our website!
This website is designed mainly for young people with congenital heart disease (CHD). The aim is to help people feel more ready to “transition” from pediatric to adult care. And we know that family, friends and health care providers might also want to check it out!
Since this is your first visit, please read our disclaimer!