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Lancet Infect Dis. 2011 Mar;11(3):248-52. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70005-6.

Guidelines for hospital-acquired pneumonia and health-care-associated pneumonia: a vulnerability, a pitfall, and a fatal flaw.

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Special Pathogens Laboratory and Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA.


The 2005 American Thoracic Society and Infectious Disease Society of America's guidelines for pneumonia introduced the new category of health-care-associated pneumonia, which increased the number of people to whom the guidelines for multidrug-resistant pathogens applied. Three fundamental issues inherent in the definition of hospital-acquired pneumonia and health-care-associated pneumonia undermined the credibility of these guidelines and the applicability of their recommendations: a vulnerability, a pitfall, and a fatal flaw. The vulnerability is the extreme heterogeneity of the population of patients. The fatal flaw is the failure to accurately diagnose hospital-acquired pneumonia and ventilator-associated pneumonia; inability to distinguish colonisation from infection in respiratory-tract cultures renders the guidelines inherently unstable. The pitfall is spiralling empiricism of antibiotic use for severely ill patients in whom infection might not be present. A vicious circle of antibiotic overuse leading to emergence of resistant microflora can become established, leading to unnecessary use of empirical broad-spectrum combination antibiotics and increased mortality. Controlled studies now show that administration of broad-spectrum combination antibiotic therapy can lead to increased mortality in uninfected patients. Proposed solutions include the use of individualised assessment of patients. Health-care-associated pneumonia should be broken down into several distinct subgroups so narrow-spectrum antibiotic therapy can be used. Emphasis should be placed on defining the microbial cause of the pneumonia rather than reflex administration of empirical combination therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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