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Update on antibiotic prophylaxis and infective endocarditis

Much separates the UK for the USA.

An ocean, obviously.

And language - ‘Two nations divided by a common language’- a comment variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw or possibly Oscar Wilde or even Winston Churchill. 

I mean, who knew that the exhaust pipe on your car is a muffler and the bonnet is a hood? Chips/crisps, fries/chips, pants/trousers, jelly/jam – the opportunities for misunderstanding are endless.

When it comes to the differences in advice with regard to management of patients at risk of infective endocarditis (IE), the chasm between the UK and the USA is very wide indeed.

The American Heart Association (AHA) continues to recommend that antibiotic prophylaxis (AP) is given to those undergoing invasive dental procedures (IDP) and at risk of IE.

Those at increased risk of developing IE include people with

  • acquired valvular heart disease with stenosis or regurgitation
  • hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • previous infective endocarditis
  • structural congenital heart disease, including surgically corrected or palliated structural conditions, but excluding isolated atrial septal defect, fully repaired ventricular septal defect or fully repaired patent ductus arteriosus, and closure devices that are judged to be endothelialised
  • valve replacement

IDPs which should be covered by AP are defined as

  • extractions and other surgical interventions such as biopsies, implant placement and periodontal surgery
  • scaling and root planning
  • endodontic treatment

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) recommends that AP is restricted to those at highest risk of IE.

However, in the UK, since 2008, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance has stated that “antibiotic prophylaxis against infective endocarditis is not recommended routinely for people undergoing dental procedures.”

The evidence for the use of AP before IDP’s appears to be lacking and causal links with bacteraemia’s from tooth brushing have been suggested. Despite research published in 2013 which found an increase in IE in the UK followed a decrease in AP prescriptions subsequent to the issue of the 2008 guidelines, the NICE recommendations have largely remained unchanged since then.

However, a recent paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, by Martin Thornhill of Sheffield University and colleagues, provides evidence that an association between IDP’s and the development of IE in at risk individuals. Using diagnostic, treatment and hospital admission coding from almost 8 million case records, it was found that the chances of acquiring IE following extractions or other oral surgical procedures were significantly increased for those at high risk. Where AP was provided (in 32% of cases) there was a significantly reduced risk of acquiring IE. The low rate of compliance with the AHA advice about AP is possibly explained by a lack of understanding of the guidance or a belief that AP is the responsibility of the cardiologist, not the dentist.

The authors suggest that their findings “provide evidence to support the current AHA and ESC recommendations that those at highest risk of IE should receive AP before IDPs”, implying that the current NICE guidance is out of date.

NICE guidance to UK dentists continues to be that AP is not routinely recommended and that

“Healthcare professionals should offer people at increased risk of infective endocarditis clear and consistent information about prevention, including:

  • the benefits and risks of antibiotic prophylaxis, and an explanation of why antibiotic prophylaxis is no longer routinely recommended
  • the importance of maintaining good oral health
  • symptoms that may indicate infective endocarditis and when to seek expert advice
  • the risks of undergoing invasive procedures, including non‑medical procedures such as body piercing or tattooing.”

So - watch out for new guidance soon!

But for TMD, there’s a bridge over the pond!

The regular reader of this blog (there’s probably only one, I’m a born pessimist) may recall that the first in the series, back in January, discussed the management of tempero-mandibular disorders (TMD) and asked to whom patients should be referred. Given its links to other chronic pain conditions, a multi-disciplinary approach to care and management seemed appropriate.

And here’s a move towards that. A recent paper in the British Dental Journal – A commentary on Tempero-mandibular disorders: priorities for research and care – bridging from the US to the UK (Durham,J, Greene,C and Ohrbach,R) reviews work from the US indicating that ‘the current dental-focussed treatments for TMD must be re-conceptualised toward a multi-disciplinary, inter-professional team approach, involving specialists within the broader healthcare community.’ International co-operation to create registers to gather data on patients’ health and treatments should provide sufficiently large datasets to allow the development of clinical guidelines for patient care. Centres of excellence for treatment are proposed for treatment of TMD s and management of oro-facial pain. Already in the UK, a National Orofacial Pain Alliance has been set up, drawing together the expertise of oral surgeons and clinical psychologists.

So, as we move into fall, perhaps we can take a rain check on our dental differences with the USA, and wait to see how NICE has gotten on with some new guidance.

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Tony Smith

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