Vegetations and Clots

Vegetations and Clots

What are vegetations and clots?

Vegetations can build up in the heart due to endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. If this infection occurs, bacteria, fungi and other germs can invade your blood and in turn attach themselves to abnormal areas of your heart. This build up is known as vegetation and can cause blood clots, which can cause serious damage to the heart and other vital organs.

A structural defect or faulty valves in the heart are the most likely causes of suffering from this infection and the build up of vegetations, although some with a healthy heart can develop vegetations due to other causes, such as poor mouth hygiene.

Those with artificial heart aids, such as valve replacements or pacemakers, may also be susceptible to infection and the build up of vegetation.

What are the symptoms of vegetations and clots?

The symptoms vary from patient to patient depending upon the existence of an underlying or pre-existing heart condition and the type of the germ that’s causing the infection.

Symptoms may include aching muscles and joints, chills, fever, headaches, breathlessness, a new or change to an existing heart murmur, nausea, or a swelling to the abdomen, legs or feet.

What assessment do I need if I have vegetations and clots?

Management of this condition often requires admission to hospital. In addition to blood tests, your consultant is likely to use an echocardiogram (TTE) to image your heart, and may then require an transesophageal echo (TOE) to obtain a clearer image. Both assessments are pain free, although there may be a little discomfort during the TOE when the ultrasound probe is passed down the oesophagus (food pipe).

What are the treatments for vegetations and clots?

Vegetations and clots are treated in the first instance by a course of antibiotics, however, surgery may be required depending on the severity of the condition.