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Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection of the lungs contracted during a hospital stay.

Causes of Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a very common illness. It is caused by lots of different germs and can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia tends to be more serious, because a patient's defense mechanisms against infection are often impaired during a hospital stay. In addition, the types of germs present in a hospital are frequently more dangerous than those encountered in the community. Hospital-acquired pneumonia occurs more commonly in patients who require a respirator to help them breathe. It is also known as ventilator-associated pneumonia.

Risk factors for hospital-acquired pneumonia include:

Symptoms of Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

Exams and Tests for Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

A physical examination reveals respiratory distress and crackles or decreased breath sounds when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.

Tests performed may include:

Treatment for Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

The objective of treatment is to cure the infection with antibiotics. An antibiotic is selected based on the specific germ detected by sputum culture. However, the organism cannot always be identified with tests, so antibiotic therapy is given to fight the most common bacterial organisms that infect hospitalized patients -- Staphylococcus aureus and gram-negative rods.

Supportive treatment includes supplemental oxygen and lung treatments to loosen and remove thick secretions from the lungs.

Outlook/Prognosis for Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

Most patients respond to the treatment and improve in 2-weeks. However, hospital-acquired pneumonia can be very severe and sometimes deadly.

Possible Complications of Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

Elderly or debilitated patients who fail to respond to treatment may die from acute respiratory failure.

Prevention of Hospital Acquired Pneumonia

Ongoing prevention programs to limit hospital-acquired infections are in place at most institutions.