Background: Operation for infective endocarditis with paravalvular abscess is reportedly associated with high mortality and morbidity rates. In an attempt to improve surgical outcome, an approach of radical resection of the abscess and inflamed tissues and reconstruction of the heart with either fresh or glutaraldehyde-fixed bovine pericardium was adopted by two surgeons at our institution.
Methods: From 1979 to 1995, 70 consecutive patients with active infective endocarditis and paravalvular abscess underwent operation. Their mean age was 49 years (range, 16 to 75 years), and 50 patients (71%) were men. Thirty-four patients had native and 36 had prosthetic valve endocarditis (8 had had composite replacement of the aortic valve and ascending aorta). Most patients (78%) were in New York Heart Association functional class IV. The principal indication for operation was cardiogenic or septic shock in 11 patients, or one or more of the following: persistent sepsis despite adequate antibiotic therapy in 36, congestive heart failure in 31, and recurrent emboli in 16. Staphylococci were responsible for the infection in 37 patients (53%). The abscess was in the mitral annulus in 11 patients, in the aortic root in 44, and in the aortic root and at least one other annulus in 15. After wide resection of the abscess, we reconstructed the heart and annuli with autologous or bovine pericardium. Mechanical heart valves were implanted in 36 patients, bioprostheses in 30, and aortic homografts in 2; valve repair was possible in 2. Sixteen patients required composite replacement of the ascending aorta and aortic valve.
Results: There were 9 operative deaths (13%). Infections caused by staphylococci and infections in multiple annuli were associated with increased operative mortality rates. Only 1 patient had persistent infection and required reoperation. The mean follow-up was 56 +/- 40 months. There were 12 late deaths, mostly cardiac. The actuarial survival including operative deaths was 64% +/- 8% at 8 years. In 8 patients, recurrent infective endocarditis developed 10 to 102 months after operation. The freedom from recurrent endocarditis was 76% +/- 10% at 8 years.
Conclusions: This experience indicates that radical resection of the abscess and reconstruction of the heart with pericardium yield an excellent chance of eradicating the infection in patients with infective endocarditis and paravalvular abscess. The type of valve implanted may not be as important as radical resection of the abscess. These patients appear to have a greater than average risk of recurrent endocarditis.