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Int J Emerg Med. 2014 May 12;7:19. doi: 10.1186/1865-1380-7-19. eCollection 2014.

Nursing home-acquired pneumonia: course and management in the emergency department.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine, 4201 St. Antoine, 6G-UHC, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.
  • 2Division of Infectious Diseases, Henry Ford Health System, 2799 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.



Pneumonia is among the foremost causes of hospitalization and mortality in patients residing in extended care facilities. Despite its prevalence, there is currently little literature focusing on the course and management of nursing home-acquired pneumonia (NHAP) in the emergency department (ED). Our objective was to investigate the ED presentation, course, management and outcomes in patients admitted through the ED with NHAP.


A retrospective chart review of nursing home patients with a presumptive or final diagnosis of pneumonia admitted through the ED was performed at two large hospitals in Detroit, Michigan.


A total of 296 patients were included in the study from 2002 to 2007 with a mean age of 81.1 years (SD ± 10.95) and 55.4% females. Blood cultures were performed on 90.8% of patients in the ED; 17.8% of these revealed growths, but half of these were considered contaminants. Initial chest x-ray in the ED was read as possible pneumonia in 18.2% of patients; 73.9% were started on antibiotics (ABX) in the ED. Mean hospital length of stay (LOS) was 10.75 days (SD ± 9.35) and in-hospital mortality was 16.2%. Time until first ABX in univariate analysis was nearly significant (p = 0.053) for mortality prediction, and the appropriate versus inappropriate ABX (per the Infectious Diseases Society of America and American Thoracic Society guidelines) did not affect mortality. Patients treated with a single ABX had significantly increased LOS (p = 0.0089). There was poor correlation between LOS and time until first ABX as well as LOS and time until appropriate ABX with a correlation coefficient of -0.048 (p = 0.42) and -0.08 (p = 0.43), respectively.


In this data set of NHAP patients admitted through the ED, we found a surprisingly low prevalence of true-positive blood cultures, high incidence of antibiotic pre-treatment at nursing homes prior to admission, high hospital mortality and low immunization rates. There was a wide spectrum of pathogens grown in blood culture. Only two thirds of the patients had dyspnea at presentation, and less than half had either cough or fever. On physical examination, about one fourth had no clinical findings consistent with pneumonia. Further, less than one fifth of chest x-rays were interpreted as possible pneumonia.


Emergency department; Nursing home; Pneumonia

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