Many previous studies have endeavored to find appropriate means to reduce the occurrence of neurologic manifestations in patients with infective endocarditis (IE). We evaluated patients with IE-associated neurologic complications and compared them with patients with IE who did not have neurologic symptoms. Particular attention was focused on assessing the impact of cardiac surgery and the presence of potential risk factors for complications on the outcome of the patients.
A total of 218 episodes designated as definite or possible IE according to Duke criteria and treated during the years 1980 through 1996 in a Finnish teaching hospital were retrospectively evaluated for neurologic manifestations.
Neurologic complications were identified in 55 episodes (25%), with an embolic event as the most frequent manifestation (23/55; 42%). In the majority (76%) of episodes, the neurologic manifestation was evident before antimicrobial treatment was started, being the first sign of IE in 47% of episodes. Only 1 recurrent cerebral embolization was observed. Neurologic complications were significantly associated with Staphylococcus aureus infection (29% vs 10%; P = .001) and with IE affecting both the aortic and the mitral valves (56% vs 23%; P<.01), but not with echocardiographic detection of vegetations or anticoagulant therapy. Death during the acute phase of IE occurred in 13 episodes (24%) with neurologic complications and in 17 episodes (10%) without neurologic complications (P<.03). In episodes with neurologic complications, the IE-associated mortality rate was 25% (10/40) in the medical treatment group and 20% (3/15) in the surgical group. No neurologic deterioration was observed in these surgically treated patients postoperatively.
Our results reinforce the belief that rapid diagnosis and initiation of antimicrobial therapy may still be the most effective means to prevent neurologic complications. These data underscore the importance of diagnostic alertness to the prognosis of patients with IE.