-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Life-threatening infections
of the heart valve are twice as common in the United States as
previously thought and have increased steadily in the last 15
years, according to researchers.
The new study also found that many cases of these infections --
called endocarditis -- are acquired in health care facilities and
may be preventable.
Without antibiotic treatment, these infections are fatal. Even
with the best treatment, one in five patients with a heart valve
infection suffers a heart attack or stroke and one in seven dies,
according to study lead author Dr. David Bor, chief of medicine and
of infectious diseases at Cambridge Health Alliance in
Massachusetts and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard
He and a colleague analyzed national data and recorded 39,000
hospitalizations for heart valve infections in 2009. Cases have
increased 2.4 percent a year since 1998, they found. The findings
were published online March 20 in the journal
Endocarditis is considered relatively uncommon, study co-author
Dr. John Brusch said in a Cambridge Health Alliance news release.
"Yet, the incidence today is two to three times that of
tuberculosis or syphilis," he said.
Recent studies show that "40 percent of endocarditis patients
acquired their infections in health care facilities," Bor said in
the news release. "Like the patients in those studies, the patients
we identified are mostly older, often have other serious illnesses,
and many of them have previously received cardiac implants such as
pacemakers, defibrillators, or prosthetic heart valves," he
Staphylococcus aureus infection accounted for about half the
cases, and 53 percent of the staph infections were classified as
methicillin-resistant, meaning they do not respond to a common
antibiotic, according to the report.
Bor said "staph infections increased dramatically, and many
staph infections are hospital-acquired and can be prevented. To do
this, doctors and nurses need to be meticulous about hand washing."
It is also important to "avoid unnecessary procedures, devices,
invasive tests and antibiotics," he added in the news release.
About $30 billion a year is spent on health care-associated
infections, the authors pointed out in the news release.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
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