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Infective endocarditis in the elderly: diagnosis and management.

Infective endocarditis is seen with increasing frequency in older patients. This increase is due to the general aging of the population, improved survival of patients with congenital and valvular heart disease, and the increasing use of catheters and other prosthetic devices with resulting higher incidence of nosocomial endocarditis. In older patients, infective endocarditis frequently develops in the absence of underlying structural heart disease; atheromatous deposits and mitral annular calcification are two important risk factors in this population. Infective organisms in older patients are frequently enterococci and other gastrointestinal tract bacteria. A marked febrile response is uncommon whereas central nervous system symptoms are more common in older patients. Transesophageal echocardiography can be performed safely and is a major diagnostic tool with sensitivity of more than 90% in detecting vegetations as small as 2-5 mm. Appropriately drawn blood cultures provide bacteriologic diagnosis in 80%-99% of patients. Prolonged antibiotic therapy may be required in many instances depending on the infective organism. Early surgical therapy is advisable for patients who develop heart failure as a result of severe acute aortic valvular regurgitation. Valve replacement surgery can be performed with acceptable mortality and morbidity even in very elderly patients.

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