Infective endocarditis (IE) is an important pathology to detect in the Emergency Department (ED), but the diagnosis is too often delayed or missed1. IE ticks many boxes as a diagnosis we can ‘own’ in Emergency Medicine (EM):
1. It is time-critical with worsening morbidity/mortality as the disease progresses1-4
2. Patients are often critically unwell
3. Along with recent dental work and congenital heart disease, risk factors include uncontrolled diabetes and intravenous drug use5, and patients in the latter two groups often have poor access to healthcare and poor compliance with follow-up instructions. Their ED visit may well be the best opportunity we have to make a life-saving diagnosis.
The Modified Duke Criteria combines clinical, lab and imaging criteria for diagnosing IE, with the gold standard imaging modality being transoesophageal echocardiography (TOE). However access to TOE is extremely limited in the developing world for the majority of patients, and even in the developed world there are often geographic, expertise or resource constraints to accessing this study. In addition TOE requires some preparation - multiple staff, an empty stomach, sedation, topical anaesthesia - all followed by meticulous probe sterilisation and storage.
In contrast, transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) is a widely available modality which can be performed immediately by clinicians at the bedside, and is steadily becoming cheaper and more accessible in emergency departments.
As with so many things point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS), when dealing with valvular vegetations we are blessed with this rule of thumb:
BIGGER = WORSE = MORE URGENT = EASIER TO FIND6-10.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m from a small town in 'Norn Ireland' called Enniskillen, home of possibly the world’s best pub, Blakes the Hollow, followed closely by the finest chips, stuffing and gravy.
Having trained as a GP in the west of Ireland I left for 'a year’ to see how things were done in the antipodes.
Ten years later I am working as an emergency physician in Grafton and Coffs Hospitals and enjoying life with my wife and two little ones in a small village by the beach.
Blogs are written by our EMUGs Team from across Australasia.