NICE clinical guidelines
Issued: March 2008

Prophylaxis against infective endocarditis: Antimicrobial prophylaxis against infective endocarditis in adults and children undergoing interventional procedures

This is an extract from the guidance. The complete guidance is available at


Infective endocarditis (IE) is a rare condition with significant morbidity and mortality. It may arise following bacteraemia in a patient with a predisposing cardiac lesion. In an attempt to prevent this disease, over the past 50 years, at-risk patients have been given antibiotic prophylaxis before dental and certain non-dental interventional procedures.

In the absence of a robust evidence base, antibiotic prophylaxis has been given empirically to patients with a wide range of cardiac conditions including a history of rheumatic fever. The efficacy of this regimen in humans has never been properly investigated and clinical practice has been dictated by clinical guidelines based on expert opinion.

Recent guidelines by the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (Gould et al. 2006) and the American Heart Association (Wilson et al. 2007) have challenged existing dogma by highlighting the prevalence of bacteraemias that arise from everyday activities such as toothbrushing, the lack of association between episodes of IE and prior interventional procedures, and the lack of efficacy of antibiotic prophylaxis regimens.

Against this background, the Department of Health asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce a short clinical guideline which would give clear guidance on best clinical practice for prophylaxis against IE in patients undergoing dental and certain non-dental interventional procedures.

The Guideline Development Group (GDG) comprised NICE's short clinical guidelines technical team and experts from many branches of medicine and dentistry, including cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, microbiologists, pharmacists, dental practitioners, paediatric dentists and academic dentists. There were also two patient representatives. In addition, the GDG sought advice from co-opted experts in gastroenterology, obstetrics, urology, otolaryngology, respiratory medicine and anaesthetics.

The group considered the evidence available in the light of existing guidelines and attempted to generate recommendations that would be of improved benefit to the patients and would be acceptable to practising clinicians. The group were mindful that antibiotic administration is not without risk to the individual patient, notwithstanding the implications of unnecessary antibiotic use on antimicrobial resistance. A new piece of health economic analysis was also undertaken to inform the GDG on the cost effectiveness of prophylaxis for patients undergoing dental procedures.

The GDG were unanimous in their conclusions about which patients with preexisting cardiac lesions are at risk of developing IE. They also agreed that the body of clinical and cost-effectiveness evidence reviewed in this guideline supported a recommendation that at-risk patients undergoing interventional procedures should no longer be given antibiotic prophylaxis against IE. In particular, the GDG were convinced by the evidence suggesting that current antibiotic prophylaxis regimens might result in a net loss of life. It should be emphasised that antibiotic therapy is still thought necessary to treat active or potential infections.

The GDG recognised that these recommendations, which are detailed and justified in this document, are a paradigm shift from current accepted practice. Dissemination of the new recommendations and the rationale underpinning them is a pre-requisite to their acceptance by patients and their healthcare professional carers. The GDG hope that the following sections provide sufficient clarity for this short clinical guideline to be accepted and implemented.

Professor David Wray
Guideline Development Group Chair