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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Aspiration pneumonia

Anaerobic pneumonia; Aspiration of vomitus; Necrotizing pneumonia; Aspiration pneumonitis

Last reviewed: January 24, 2013.

Pneumonia is a breathing condition in which there is swelling or an infection of the lungs or large airways.

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food, saliva, liquids, or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs.

 

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The type of bacteria that caused the pneumonia depends on:

  • Your health
  • Where you live (at home or in a long-term nursing facility, for example)
  • Whether you were recently hospitalized
  • Recent antibiotic use

Risk factors for aspiration or breathing in of foreign material into the lungs are:

  • Being less alert due to medicines, illness, or other reasons
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • Medicine to put you into a deep sleep for surgery (general anesthesia)
  • Old age
  • Poor gag reflex in people who are not alert (unconscious or semi-conscious) after a stroke or brain injury

Symptoms

Signs and tests

A physical examination may reveal:

The following tests may also help diagnose this condition:

Treatment

Some people may need to be hospitalized. Treatment depends on how severe the pneumonia is. Sometimes a ventilator (breathing machine) is needed to support breathing.

You will likely receive antibiotics.

You may need to have your swallowing function tested. Persons who have trouble swallowing may need to use other feeding methods to reduce the risk of aspiration.

Expectations (prognosis)

Outcome depends on:

More severe infections may result in long-term damage to the lungs.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider, go to the emergency room, or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have:

References

  1. Limper AH. Overview of pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 97.
  2. Torres A, Menendez R, Wunderink R. Pyogenic bacterial pneumonia and lung abscess. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 32.

Review Date: 1/24/2013.

Reviewed by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Restriction of oral intake of water for aspiration lung disease in childrenRestriction of oral intake of water for aspiration lung disease in children
    Primary aspiration of food and fluid can cause serious lung consequences in infants and children. Treatment recommendations for children who have primary aspiration of thin fluids includes restriction of thin fluids and provision of thickened fluids. Children often refuse to drink thickened fluids presenting a challenge for families to ensure that the child takes sufficient fluid. Allowing children who have thin fluid aspiration to drink water may assist in providing enough fluid without endangering the lung . This review found no evidence about drinking water in children with primary aspiration of thin fluids.
See all (12) ...

Figures

  • Pneumococci organism.
    Bronchoscopy.
    Lungs.
    Respiratory system.

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