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Patient education: Hospital-acquired pneumonia (The Basics)

Patient education: Hospital-acquired pneumonia (The Basics)

What is pneumonia? — Pneumonia is a lung infection that can cause a fever, cough, and trouble breathing (figure 1). The lung infection is usually caused by bacteria. But occasionally, it can also be caused by viruses or other germs.

Doctors use the term "hospital-acquired" when a person catches an infection during a hospital stay. Doctors use the term "community-acquired" when a person catches an infection in their daily life.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is usually more serious than community-acquired pneumonia. That's because people who get hospital-acquired pneumonia are usually already sick.

One type of hospital-acquired pneumonia is called "ventilator-associated pneumonia." It happens in people who have a breathing tube and are attached to a breathing machine, called a ventilator.

What are the symptoms of hospital-acquired pneumonia? — Common symptoms of hospital-acquired pneumonia include:

Fever

Coughing up yellow or green mucus

Trouble breathing

Breathing much faster than usual

Is there a test for hospital-acquired pneumonia? — Yes. To check for a lung infection, the doctor will do:

A chest X-ray

Lab tests on a sample of mucus that is coughed up – Sometimes, the doctor needs to put a tube into the lungs to get a sample of mucus.

Blood and urine tests

How is hospital-acquired pneumonia treated? — Treatment can involve:

Antibiotics – Doctors treat hospital-acquired pneumonia caused by bacteria with antibiotic medicines. These medicines kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. People usually get these medicines through a thin tube that goes into a vein, called an "IV."

The medicines used to treat hospital-acquired pneumonia are sometimes different than those used to treat community-acquired pneumonia. That's because the germs that cause hospital-acquired pneumonia are more likely to be "resistant" to antibiotics. This means that they are harder to kill. Because of this, doctors often treat hospital-acquired pneumonia with antibiotics that work against resistant bacteria. Sometimes, doctors use more than 1 antibiotic at the same time.

Oxygen – Some people with hospital-acquired pneumonia are also treated with extra oxygen. This can help them breathe more easily. Extra oxygen can be given through 2 small tubes that fit into your nostrils or through a mask that goes over your nose and mouth.

People who are very sick sometimes get oxygen through a special breathing tube that goes in the mouth and down into the lungs. The other end of the tube is attached to a breathing machine.

Most people start to feel better within a few days of starting treatment. But a cough from pneumonia can last weeks or months after treatment.

Can hospital-acquired pneumonia be prevented? — In the hospital, doctors and nurses do certain things to try to prevent people from getting hospital-acquired pneumonia. For example, they:

Wash their hands often – This helps to avoid spreading germs.

Remove a person's breathing tube as soon as they no longer need it

The staff will also take special care when a person does need to be on a breathing machine. They will:

Use suction to clear mucus from the mouth, nose, and breathing tube

Raise the head of the bed when a person is on a breathing machine – This lowers the chance that fluids in the mouth and throat will go into the lungs.

Clean the person's mouth and teeth regularly

More on this topic

Patient education: Pneumonia in adults (The Basics)
Patient education: Shortness of breath (The Basics)
Patient education: Medical care during advanced illness (The Basics)
Patient education: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (The Basics)
Patient education: Multidrug-resistant organisms (The Basics)

Patient education: Pneumonia in adults (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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