Objective: To determine whether vegetations visualized on two-dimensional echocardiography are an independent risk factor for the development of subsequent emboli in patients with infective endocarditis and to assess the timing of emboli relative to the initiation of antimicrobial therapy.
Design: Investigator-blinded, retrospective incidence cohort study.
Setting: Tertiary referral center.
Patients: Patients with left-sided native valve infective endocarditis who had two-dimensional echocardiography within 72 hours of beginning antimicrobial therapy.
Measurements and main results: The crude incidence rate of first embolic events in patients receiving antimicrobial therapy was 6.2 per 1000 patient-days (95% CI, 4.2 to 9.2). The rates in patients with and without vegetations were 7.1 and 4.9 per 1000 patient-days, respectively (incidence rate ratio, 1.4; 95% CI, 0.6 to 3.3). The relation between vegetations and risk for emboli was microorganism-dependent: Stratified incidence rate ratios were 6.9 (95% CI, 1.1 to 42.5; P less than 0.05) and 1.0 (95% CI, 0.2 to 3.9) for viridans streptococcal and Staphylococcus aureus endocarditis, respectively. The rate of first embolic events diminished over time (P less than 0.001), falling from 13 per 1000 patient-days during the first week of therapy to less than 1.2 per 1000 patient-days after completion of the second week of therapy.
Conclusions: Overall, the presence of vegetations on echocardiography was not associated with a significantly higher risk for embolus in patients with left-sided native valve infective endocarditis. The relative risk for embolic events associated with echocardiographically visualized vegetations may be microorganism-dependent, with a significantly increased risk seen only in patients with viridans streptococcal infection. The rate of embolic events declines with time after initiation of antimicrobial treatment.