Value and limitations of the Duke criteria for the diagnosis of infective endocarditis

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1999 Jun;33(7):2023-9. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(99)00116-3.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the value and limitations of Duke criteria for the diagnosis of infective endocarditis (IE).

Background: Duke criteria have been shown to be more sensitive in diagnosing IE than the von Reyn criteria, but the diagnosis of IE remains difficult in some patients.

Methods: Both classifications were applied in 93 consecutive patients with pathologically proven IE. Blood cultures, and transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiography were performed in all patients.

Results: Sensitivities for the diagnosis of IE were 56% and 76% for von Reyn and Duke criteria, respectively. Fifty-two patients were correctly classified as "probable IE" by von Reyn and "definite IE" by Duke criteria (group 1). However, discrepancies were observed in 41 patients. Eleven patients (group 2) were misclassified as "rejected" by von Reyn, but were "definite IE" by Duke criteria; this difference could be explained by negative blood cultures and positive echocardiogram in all patients. In eight patients (group 3), the diagnosis of IE was "possible" by von Reyn but "definite" by Duke criteria. This difference was essentially explained by the failure of the von Reyn classification to consider echocardiographic abnormalities as major criteria. Twenty-two patients (group 4) were misclassified as possible IE using Duke criteria, being false negative of this classification. Echocardiographic major criteria were present in 19 patients, but blood cultures were negative in 21 patients. The cause of negative blood cultures was prior antibiotic therapy in 11 patients and Q-fever endocarditis diagnosed by positive serology in three cases.

Conclusions: Twenty-four percent of patients with proved IE remain misclassified as "possible IE" despite the use of Duke criteria, especially in cases of culture-negative and Q-fever IE. Increasing the diagnostic value of echographic criteria in patients with prior antibiotic therapy and typical echocardiographic findings and considering the serologic diagnosis of Q fever as a major criterion would further improve the clinical diagnosis of IE.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Infections / classification
  • Bacterial Infections / diagnosis*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Echocardiography, Doppler, Color
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / classification
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity