Uppinder Mattu MD, Shiv Sudhakar MD, Stuart Cohen MD, Jeffrey Southard MD

Department of Medicine

University of California, Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA


Austrian’s Triad is pneumococcal bacteremia, endocarditis, and meningitis. Dr. Robert Austrian described the triad in 1957. The incidence of endocarditis due to Strep. Pneumoniae is 1-3% ;

Austrian’s Triad is present in approximately 60% of cases.


Presentation W.W. is a 54 year old Caucasian woman who presented with altered mental status. On the night prior to admission, patient complained of profuse diarrhea and abdominal pain. At that time, her mental status was intact. The next morning, the patient’s son found her to be less responsive. Upon arrival to the ED, her GCS was 8.

PMH MI, Bipolar disorder, Depression, COPD, DM, Hypothyroidism, Seizure d/o.

Social Hx Disabled due to psychiatric disease, Smokes 2-3 ppd, Drinks 12-18 beers daily.

Exam Temp 102.6 HR 120 BP 80/55 RR 35 O2 sat on RA 84%.

Gen: Obese white female. Intubated.

Eyes: Pupils are equal and reactive bilaterally.

Neck: (Per ED staff, neck was supple). No JVD. No LAD.

Lungs: Coarse breath sounds bilaterally.

Heart: Increased rate and regular rhythm. No murmur or rub.

Abdomen: Large cholecystectomy scar, normal bowel sounds. No organomegaly.

Skin: Warm. No rashes or lesions.

Extremities: 2+ pedal pulses bilaterally and no peripheral edema.

Neurological: Muscle tone normal. Reflexes normal and symmetric. No babinski sign.

Labs/ Studies

CBC : WBC 26 with 93% PMNs, Hgb 11.1, Plt 291

BMP: Bicarb 20, AG 14, Cr 1.8, Glucose 232; Lactate: 3.7

LFTs: AST 126, ALT 37, AP 93, T bili 0.5

Troponin 20-

70; BNP:554

CXR : Left lower lobe infiltrate (Figure 1).

EKG: Tachycardia. RBBB. Q waves in the inferior leads (Figure 2).

TEE: EF 35%. Apex is hypokinetic. Moderate AI; no vegetation seen.

CT Head non contrast: no intracranial hemorrhage, mass effect,.

Hospital Course

Day 1: Patient is started on antibiotics for treatment of pna and coverage of abdominal sources: Ceftriaxone, Metronidazole, Moxifloxacin. Shock was managed with fluids, pressors. Myocardial infarction managed with heparin drip, ASA, Clopidogrel.

Day 2: Mental status improves; patient is extubated. Blood cultures show S. pneumoniae .

Antibiotics narrowed to Vancomycin.

Day 3: Mental status worsens. RR increased to mid 40s. Patient is re-intubated.

Respiratory culture reveals Group A alpha hemolytic streptococci. Sensitivities show pan sensitive S pneumoniae ; antibiotics changed to Ceftriaxone.

Day 4: Patient continues to be non-responsive. LP is done: WBC too numerous to determine, 81%, neutrophils, protein 457, glucose 22, GS shows GPC. MRI head is done which shows bilateral septic emboli and pus in the ventricles (Figure 3a-c). TEE is done and shows 0.5 cm vegetation on the aortic valve (Figure 4a) and moderate AI (Figure 4b).

Patient treated with meningitis doses of Ceftriaxone.

Day 7: Patient’s mental status improves.

Day 10: Patient is successfully extubated. Mental status is at baseline.

Figure 1

Figure 3a

Figure 4a

Figure 3b


Figure 2

Figure 4b

Figure 3c


In a 2002 study, 165 patients with endocarditis were identified in; 3 patients had pneumococcal endocarditis and 2/3 had Austrian’s Triad. Risk factors of Austrian’s triad include alcoholism, sinus infection, immunosuppression, and IV drug abuse. These patients do not present with typical peripheral findings of endocarditis. 80% of cases involve the native aortic valve and heart failure is present in most cases. Mortality rates exceed 60%.

Complications of Austrian's include heart failure, suppurative pericarditis, tamponade, and septic emboli. Embolic events occur in 22-50% of cases of endocarditis. In one case series, the incidence of coronary emboli was 7%. Upon autopsy of patients with endocarditis, coronary emboli were seen in 60% of cases. Myocardial infarction is a rare complication of coronary artery embolization; in one series it was reported in 17/586 cases of infective endocarditis. A curious aspect of this patient’s cases is that she presented with significant MI; troponin peaked at 90. We postulate that our patient had Austrian’s triad complicated by coronary emboli.


Coronary emboli are an infrequent cause of MI, but very frequently seen in patients with endocarditis.

Options for management include thrombolytics, cardiac catheterization, and cardiac surgery.

Thrombolytics are contraindicated because of the high risk of hemorrhage due to cerebral septic emboli, as seen in our patient. In one case series 5/6 patients treated with thrombolytics died due to cerebral hemorrhage. Balloon angioplasty has been successful in some cases; initially the aspiration of the clot is attempted and then a wire is advanced past the lesion to balloon the debris to the side of the lesion. Another option is stent placement, but in the setting of bacteremia, the stent can become infected, and potentially cause a mycotic aneurysm.


Aortic valve replacement should have been considered in order to prevent complications, which occur early in the course of disease. Some experts recommend immediate valve replacement. In our patient’s case, the diagnosis was not made until day 4 of admission and she already had cerebral and coronary emboli. She did not have persistent bacteremia, large vegetation, and her shock was medically managed. Our patient had a good outcome without valve replacement. Thus the need for valve replacement should be evaluated on an individual case basis.


* IE due to S. pneumoniae is rare (1-3%). However, Austrian’s triad is common among these patients

(about 60%).

*In patient’s with

S. pneumoniae bacteremia and altered mental status, Austrian’s Triad should be considered early.

*Patients do not usually present with typical physical exam findings associated with endocarditis.

*The aortic valve is typically affected. TTE infrequently detects vegetations. TEE should be done to rule out endocarditis.

*Heart failure is seen commonly in Austrian’s Triad. Given the high rate of complications and mortality, valve replacement should be considered early.

*Pneumococcal vaccination does provide protection from invasive S. pneumoniae infection.



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