Send to

Choose Destination
Clin Chest Med. 1989 Dec;10(4):469-502.

Respiratory infections and acute lung injury in systemic illness.

Author information

Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.


We have discussed the relationship between systemic illness, infection, and lung disease. As we have seen, patients with a wide variety of disease states, including advanced age, diabetes mellitus, alcoholism, collagen vascular disease, cancer, heart failure, and organ transplantation are potentially at increased risk for pneumonia because of disease-related impairments in host defenses. In addition, two virtually ubiquitous conditions in hospitalized patients, malnutrition and therapeutic interventions (especially with common medications), frequently add to the risk of airway invasion by bacterial pathogens. Systemic illness not only makes lung infection more common, but may adversely affect outcome and resolution, as well as determine the clinical presentation of pneumonia. In one particular population, the intubated and mechanically ventilated patient, the risk of infection is particularly high, and nosocomial pneumonia is a major cause of mortality. To the extent that the host response itself leads to the symptoms and signs of infection, systemically ill individuals may have subtle clinical features when serious bacterial invasion is present. Many components of the host defense system can become abnormal with serious illness, but a common mechanism that ties many systemic diseases to pneumonia is an alteration in airway epithelial cell receptivity for bacteria, namely, bacterial adherence, a process that mediates airway colonization, the first pathogenetic step on the road to pneumonia. The impetus for understanding how serious illness promotes lung infection is that once these mechanisms are identified, potential preventative strategies to minimize infection risk in the individual with systemic disease may be developed. The relationship among systemic illness, the lung, and infection also exists in a different direction: infection of a systemic nature (the septic syndrome) can lead to disease in the lung (ARDS). We have described the features of the septic syndrome and identified how it may lead to lung injury, usually by indirect means, through activation of inflammatory mediators that are carried to the lung via the vasculature. Although it is frequently impossible to predict which specific patient with systemic sepsis will develop acute lung injury, the current state of knowledge does permit us to identify high-risk individuals. Surprisingly, clinical assessment rather than biochemical testing is the best predictor of the development of acute lung injury. Patients with severe injury, profound shock and multiple systemic insults are most prone to acute lung injury in the presence of systemic sepsis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center