Infections of the Heart: Myocarditis, Bacterial Pericarditis & Infective Endocarditis

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Infections of the heart can be caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite, or a fungus. Many people are unaware that the heart can become infected. Learning about the possible infections will help patients, especially if they were to ever experience a heart infection.


This condition occurs when the heart muscle becomes inflamed. This condition is not common and may be caused by a variety of different viral, fungal and bacterial infections. Signs and symptoms may include abnormal heart beat, fatigue, joint pain and swelling, shortness of breath, low urine output, chest pain, leg swelling and fainting. Signs of infection may also occur, such as fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, headache, sore throat and rash. This condition may be treated with antibiotics, diuretics, reduced activity, anti-inflammatory medications and a low-salt diet. Possible complications include cardiomyopathy, pericarditis and heart failure.

Bacterial Pericarditis

This condition is characterized by the sac surrounding the heart becoming swollen and irritated, due to a bacterial infection. This condition has become quite rare. Bacteria that may cause this infection are, Haemophilus influenza, Pneumococci, Streptococci, Meningococci and Staphylococci. Symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain (may also radiate)
  • Pain increases when breathing
  • Pain relief when standing or sitting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Rib splinting when deep breathing
  • Stabbing or sharp pain
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Sweating

Treatment often involves the following medications: antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and diuretics. Bed rest is also beneficial and highly recommended. Other treatments include draining infected fluid by making a small hole in the pericardium, surgical pericardiectomy or pericardiocentesis. This disorder must be treated promptly or else it is life-threatening. Possible complications include cardiac tamponade, pulmonary edema and constrictive heart failure.

Infective Endocarditis

Also referred to as bacterial endocarditis this infection occurs in the endocardium (heart’s inner lining) or heart valves. This disease can be fatal if the patient does not seek prompt treatment. A blood infection is the usual cause of this condition. Signs and symptoms may come on quickly or gradually and may include:

  • Abnormal urine color
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Night sweats
  • Janeway lesions
  • Osler’s nodes
  • Abdominal, leg, and feet swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in the urine
  • Excessive sweating
  • Joint pain
  • Nail abnormalities
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath when active
  • Weakness

Treatment involves being admitted into a hospital and administered intravenous antibiotics. Antibiotics are often administered in high doses and long-term. Average treatment time is four to six weeks. Damaged heart valves may require surgery to be replaced. Possible complications include brain abscess, glomerulonephritis, neurological changes, severe valve damage, congestive heart failure, jaundice, stroke, irregular or rapid heart beats including a condition known as atrial fibrillation, and emboli or blood clots that may travel to the lungs, abdomen, brain, or kidneys.


MedlinePlus. (2010). Myocarditis. Retrieved on December 22, 2010 from MedlinePlus:

MedlinePlus. (2010). Pericarditis – Bacterial. Retrieved on December 22, 2010 from MedlinePlus:

Cleveland Clinic. (2010). Infective Endocarditis. Retrieved on December 22, 2010 from the Cleveland Clinic: