Background: Infective endocarditis is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, with valvular destruction, and with congestive heart failure. Embolic events are more common in patients with echocardiographically discernible vegetations, especially when vegetations are > 10 mm in diameter.
Hypothesis: The objective of the study was to follow vegetation morphology during native valve endocarditis, to compare it with the clinical course and antibiotic treatment chosen, and to evaluate whether the impact on vegetation size and complication rate of antibiotic regimens differed in patients with positive and negative blood cultures.
Methods: The effect of different antibiotic regimes on vegetation size monitored by using transesophageal echocardiography was evaluated in 183 patients with echocardiographic evidence of infective endocarditis. A total of 223 vegetations attached to the aortic or mitral valves were detected using the transesophageal approach. The patients were followed for a mean of 76 weeks and underwent a minimum of two consecutive transesophageal echocardiographic examinations.
Results: Treatment with different kinds of antibiotics corresponded with significant differences in vegetation size; vancomycin-associated treatment was related to a 45% reduction, ampicillin to a 19% reduction, penicillin to a 5% reduction, penicillase-resistant drugs to a 15% increase, and cephalosporin to a 40% increase in vegetation size. Multivariate analysis showed that penicillin, cephalosporin, and penicillase-resistant drug treatments were associated with an increased embolic risk, vancomycin treatment with abscess formation, and cephalosporin medication with increased mortality. Plotting changes in vegetation size against the incidence of embolism and mortality, linear regression analysis suggested a 40-50% reduction in vegetation size, thereby greatly reducing the risk of embolism and mortality.
Conclusion: Our study shows that different antibiotics have different effects on vegetation size. The highest complication rate was observed when vegetations significantly increased in size during antibiotic treatment. Especially in culture-negative patients, monitoring vegetation size by means of transesophageal echocardiography may prove to be useful for estimating the efficacy of antibiotic treatment.