Diagnostic value of echocardiography in suspected endocarditis. An evaluation based on the pretest probability of disease

Circulation. 1996 Feb 15;93(4):730-6. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.93.4.730.


Background: We hypothesized that for the diagnosis of endocarditis, (1) transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) would be most valuable in patients with an intermediate clinical probability of the disease and (2) transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) would be most useful in patients with an intermediate probability when TTE either does not yield an adequate study or indicates an intermediate probability of endocarditis. We also sought to investigate the influence of echocardiographic results on antibiotic usage and its duration.

Methods and results: TTE and TEE were performed in 105 consecutive patients with suspected endocarditis. Patients were classified as having either low, intermediate, or high probability of endocarditis on the basis of clinical criteria and separately on the basis of both TTE and TEE findings. TTE and TEE classified the majority (82% and 85%, respectively) of the 67 patients with a low clinical probability of endocarditis as having a low likelihood of the disease. Of the 14 patients with intermediate clinical probability, 12 had technically adequate TTE studies; 10 of these (83%) were classified as either high or low probability. All patients with intermediate clinical probability were classified as high or low probability by TEE. The majority of the 24 patients with high clinical probability were placed in the low-likelihood category by echocardiography (15 by TTE and 12 by TEE). There was concordance between TTE and TEE in 83% of all cases. TEE was useful for the diagnosis of endocarditis in patients with prosthetic valves and in those in whom TTE indicated an intermediate probability; these constituted < 20% of patients in our study. The course of antibiotic therapy was influenced only by the clinical profile and not by the echocardiographic results.

Conclusions: Echocardiography should not be used to make a diagnosis of endocarditis in those with a low clinical probability of the disease. In those with an intermediate or high clinical probability, TTE should be the diagnostic procedure of choice. TEE for the diagnosis of endocarditis should be reserved only for patients who have prosthetic valves and in whom TTE is either technically inadequate or indicates an intermediate probability of endocarditis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Echocardiography* / methods
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / diagnosis
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / diagnostic imaging*
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Probability
  • Prospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents