Research Focuses on Surgery for Rare Heart Valve Infection

For immediate release: July 15, 2014

University of Maryland Medical Center's urban location means clinical teams care for some patients with a history of drug abuse — a key risk factor in a rare and dangerous form of heart valve infection for which UMMC physicians are learning that aggressive surgical treatment offers better-than-anticipated outcomes.

Cardiac surgeons here operate on about 10 patients each year with tricuspid valve infective endocarditis (TV IE), a potentially fatal condition that occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream and attacks the lining of the tricuspid valve. Located between the right atrium and right ventricle, the tricuspid valve is the first valve that blood flows through during normal circulation, leaving it somewhat more vulnerable to infection than valves on the heart's left side, says Murtaza Dawood, M.D., a cardiac surgeon and clinical instructor of surgery in the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Intravenous drug abusers are at particular risk, accounting for about 86 percent of TV IE surgical patients at UMMC. Dr. Dawood tracked over a 10-year period to determine operative outcomes for this uncommon group. The majority of TV IE patients are treated with antibiotics and other medications alone, but research hasn't sufficiently compared surgical versus medical treatment and some physicians underestimate the serious effects of under-treated TV IE, he notes.

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