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Hosp Pract (1995). 2012 Feb;40(1):93-105. doi: 10.3810/hp.2012.02.950.

Ventilator-associated pneumonia: a review.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Houston, TX 77030, USA. madiha.ashraf@uth.tmc.edu


Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is the most common infection seen in intensive care units (ICUs); it accounts for one-fourth of the infections occurring in critically ill patients and is the reason for half of antibiotic prescriptions in mechanically ventilated patients. In addition to being a financial burden on ICUs, it continues to contribute significantly to the morbidity and mortality of ICU patients, with an estimated attributable mortality rate of 8% to 15%. While the pathophysiology of VAP remains relatively unchanged, diagnostic techniques and preventive measures are constantly evolving. The focus of this article is on recent trends in VAP epidemiology, modifiable risk factors, diagnostic techniques, challenges in management, and current data on the prevention of VAP. Important messages that the reader should take away include: 1) There is no gold standard for the diagnosis of VAP; whenever VAP is suspected, if feasible, a quantitative culture should be obtained by invasive or noninvasive methods (whichever is more readily available before initiation of antibiotics); 2) Suspicion based on clinical features should prompt the initiation of a broad spectrum of antibiotics depending on suspected pathogens; 3) Close attention should be paid to de-escalation of antibiotics once microbiological results become available or as the patient starts responding clinically; the ideal duration of treatment should be 8 days instead of the conventional 10 to 14 days, except in situations where Pseudomonas may be suspected or the patient's comorbidities dictate otherwise; and 4) Prevention remains the key to reducing the burden of VAP. We promote the proven preventive measures of using noninvasive ventilation when possible, semirecumbent patient positioning, continuous aspiration of subglottic secretions, and oral chlorhexidine washes along with stress ulcer prophylaxis only after careful assessment of the risks versus benefits.

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