Does a focal neurologic deficit contraindicate operation in a patient with endocarditis?

Patrick E. Parrino, Irving L. Kron, Scott D. Ross, Kimberly S. Shockey, Adam M. Kron, Michael A. Towler, Curtis G. Tribble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background. As many as 40% of patients with left-sided bacterial endocarditis will sustain a neurologic insult. The importance of a neurologic change as an indication or a contraindication for valve replacement remains controversial. Methods. We performed a retrospective analysis of the records of 33 patients admitted to the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center between January 1, 1978, and June 30, 1996, with a diagnosis of endocarditis and a neurologic change. Results. All 33 patients had echocardiographic or pathologic evidence of left-sided endocarditis; 23 were seen with focal neurologic findings and had a mortality rate of 22% (5 of 23), and 10 patients were seen with nonfocal, diffuse encephalopathy and had a mortality rate of 60% (6 of 10) (p < 0.05). Of the 33 patients, 14 underwent operation and 19 were treated medically. The mortality rate was 21.4% (3 of 14) in the surgical group and 42.1% (8 of 19) in the medical group (p = not significant). In 71% (10 of 14) of the surgical patients, the operation was done within 1 week of the neurologic event. Additional neurologic deterioration occurred in 18.2% (2 of 11) of survivors in the surgical group and 9.1% (1 of 11) in the medical group (p = not significant). Conclusions. Choosing therapy for a patient with endocarditis and a neurologic change remains a difficult challenge. Initial findings of nonfocal, global dysfunction on examination are a predictor of a poor outcome. By comparing surgical and medical groups derived from the same series of patients, it is clear that patients with bacterial endocarditis and central nervous system changes face substantial mortality regardless of intervention. However, these data demonstrate that when compared with a similar group of medical patients, surgical patients who require and receive operation early in the course of their illness do comparatively well. Improving outcomes by delaying surgical intervention may serve to 'select out' hardier patients but will lead to the death of patients who might benefit from such intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-64
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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