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What is the optimal timing for surgery in infective endocarditis with cerebrovascular complications?

Neurologic dysfunction complicates the course of 10-40% of left-side infective endocarditis (IE). In right-sided IE, instead, when systemic emboli occur, paradoxical embolism should be considered. The spectrum of neurologic events includes embolic cerebrovascular complication (CVC), intracranial haemorrhage, ruptured mycotic aneurysm, transient ischaemic attack (TIA), meningitis, encephalopathy and brain abscess. Cardiopulmonary bypass might exacerbate neurological deficits due to: heparinization and secondary cerebral haemorrhage; hypotension and cerebral oedema in areas of the disrupted blood brain barrier. A best evidence topic was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was, whether there is an optimal timing for surgery in IE with CVCs. One hundred papers were found using the reported search criteria, and out of these 20 papers, provided the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results were tabulated. We found that evidence is conflicting because of lack of controlled studies. The optimal timing for the valve replacement depends on the type of neurological complication and the urgency of the operation. The new 2009 Guidelines on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infective endocarditis (IE) recommend a multidisciplinary approach and to wait for 1-2 weeks of antibiotics treatment before performing cardiac surgery. However, early surgery is indicated in: heart failure (class 1 B), uncontrolled infection (class 1 B) and prevention of embolic events (class 1B/C). After a stroke, surgery should not be delayed as long as coma is absent and cerebral haemorrhage has been excluded by cranial CT (class IIa level B). After a TIA or a silent cerebral embolism, surgery is recommended without delay (class 1 level B). In intracranial haemorrhage (ICH), surgery must be postponed for at least 1 month (class 1 level C). Surgery for prosthetic valve endocarditis (PVE) follows the general principles outlined for native valve IE. Every patient should have a repeated head CT scan immediately before the operation to rule out a preoperative haemorrhagic transformation of a brain infarction. The presence of a haematoma warrants neurosurgical consultation and consideration of cerebral angiography to rule out a mycotic aneurysm.

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