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Definition of Endocarditis

By Victor F. Huckell, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine;Staff Cardiologist, University of British Columbia;Vancouver General Hospital

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Endocarditis usually refers to infection of the inner layer of the heart (endocardium). This condition is known as infective endocarditis.

Endocarditis can also be noninfective. Innoninfective endocarditis, blood clots that do not contain microorganisms form on heart valves and adjacent endocardium. Noninfective endocarditis sometimes leads to infective endocarditis because microorganisms can attach to and grow within the fibrous blood clots.

In both infective and noninfective endocarditis, accumulations of blood clots (and bacteria in infectious endocarditis) can break free of the heart wall (becoming emboli), travel through the bloodstream, and block an artery.