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Am J Respir Med. 2003;2(1):39-54.

Optimizing treatment outcomes in severe community-acquired pneumonia.

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Servicio de Neumología, Hospital Universitario de Gran Canaria "Dr Negrín", Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain.


Severe community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is a life-threatening condition that requires intensive care unit (ICU) admission. Clinical presentation is characterized by the presence of respiratory failure, severe sepsis, or septic shock. Severe CAP accounts for approximately 5-35% of hospital-treated cases of pneumonia with the majority of patients having underlying comorbidities. The most common pathogens associated with this disease are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Legionella spp., Haemophilus influenzae, and Gram-negative enteric rods. Microbial investigation is probably helpful in the individual case but is likely to be more useful for defining local antimicrobial policies. The early and rapid initiation of empiric antimicrobial treatment is critical for a favorable outcome. It should include intravenous beta-lactam along with either a macrolide or a fluoroquinolone. Modifications of this basic regimen should be considered in the presence of distinct comorbid conditions and risk factors for specific pathogens. Other promising nonantimicrobial new therapies are currently being investigated. The assessment of severity of CAP helps physicians to identify patients who could be managed safely in an ambulatory setting. It may also play a crucial role in decisions about length of hospital stay and time of switching to oral antimicrobial therapy in different groups at risk. The most important adverse prognostic factors include advancing age, male sex, poor health of patient, acute respiratory failure, severe sepsis, septic shock, progressive radiographic course, bacteremia, signs of disease progression within the first 48-72 hours, and the presence of several different pathogens such as S. pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Gram-negative enteric bacilli, or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. However, some important topics of severity assessment remain controversial, including the definition of severe CAP. Prediction rules for complications or death from CAP, although far from perfect, should identify the majority of patients with severe CAP and be used to support decision-making by the physician. They may also contribute to the evaluation of processes and outcomes of care for patients with CAP.

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