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Aspiration Pneumonia

What is Aspiration pneumonia? Aspiration pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs and bronchial tubes due to breathing in a foreign material.

Causes of Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is caused by inhaling foreign material, which usually are food, liquids, vomit, or secretions from the mouth into the lungs. This may lead to an inflammatory reaction, a lung infection . . . pneumonia, or a collection of pus in lungs . . . lung abscess.

Aspiration of foreign material, which is often the stomach contents into the lung can occur with disorders that affect normal swallowing or disorders of the esophagus (esophageal stricture, gastroesophageal reflux). It also can be caused by a decreased or absent gag reflex in people who are not alert . . . conscious or semi-conscious.

Old age, dental problems, sedatives, anesthesia, coma, and excessive alcohol use can also lead to this problem. The more acidic the material breathed into the lungs, the more severe the lung injury, although it may not necessarily lead to pneumonia.

Symptoms for Aspiration Pneumonia

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

Exams and Tests for Aspiration Pneumonia

Physical examination may reveal crackling sounds in the lungs.

These tests also help diagnose this condition:

Treatment for Aspiration Pneumonia

Some people may require hospitalization. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the pneumonia. Antibiotics, which treat the organisms in the environment, may be given. Patients may receive special antibiotics to treat organisms that live in the mouth.

The types of organisms present depend on the patient's health and location, such as private residence or chronic nursing facility, for instance.

Patients may need to have their swallowing function assessed. If they have trouble swallowing, patients may need to use other feeding methods.

Outlook/Prognosis for Aspiration Pneumonia

The outcome depends on the severity of the pneumonia, the type of organism, and the extent of lung involvement. If acute respiratory failure develops, the patient may have a prolonged illness or die.

Possible Complications of Aspiration Pneumonia

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider, go to the emergency room, or call the local emergency number 911 if you have shortness of breath, wheezing, chills, fever, or chest pain.

Prevention of Aspiration Pneumonia