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Dis Mon. 1998 Nov;44(11):613-75.

Community-acquired pneumonia.

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State University of New York at Stony Brook.


Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in all age groups, especially the elderly, which is a patient population that continues to grow. Recently the spectrum and clinical picture of pneumonia has been changing as a reflection of this aging population; this requires a reassessment of and a new approach to the patient with pneumonia. Currently, pneumonia patients are classified as having either community-acquired or hospital-acquired infection rather than typical versus atypical. Patients who have CAP are categorized by age, presence of a coexisting medical illness, and the severity of the pneumonia. The rationale behind categorizing patients is to stratify them in terms of mortality risk to help determine the location of therapy (e.g., outpatient, inpatient, intensive care unit) and focus the choice of initial antimicrobial therapy. Once the decision to hospitalize a patient with pneumonia is made, the next step is to decide on an appropriate diagnostic evaluation and antibiotic therapy. Both decisions have evolved over the last several years since the publication of the American Thoracic Society's CAP guidelines. The current approach to the diagnostic work-up of pneumonia stresses a limited role of diagnostic tests and procedures. The antimicrobial regimen has now evolved into one that is empiric in nature and based on the age of the patient, the presence of coexisting medical disease, and the overall severity of the pneumonia. This process is a dynamic once because bacterial resistance to commonly used antibiotics can further complicate the course of pneumonia therapy, but the impact of resistance on outcome is less clear. Resistance of Streptococcus pneumoniae to penicillin is a prime example of this growing problem, and adjustment to pneumonia therapy may be required. A difficult but not uncommon problem in pneumonia patients is slow recovery and delayed resolution of radiographic infiltrates. Factors that impact negatively on pneumonia resolution include advanced age and the presence of serious comorbid illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, renal disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In addition, certain organism factors (e.g., intrinsic virulence) may interact with host factors and advanced age to delay pneumonia resolution. For example, 50% of patients with pneumococcal pneumonia have radiographic clearing at 5 weeks, and the majority clear within 2 to 3 months. Recent data demonstrate that radiographic resolution of CAP is most influenced by the number of lobes involved and the age of the patient. Radiographic clearance of CAP decreases by 20% per decade after age 20, and patients with multilobar infiltrates take longer to clear than those with unilobar disease. In general, when approaching slowly resolving infiltrates after pneumonia, bronchoscopic evaluation and lung biopsy are more likely to yield a specific diagnosis if the patient is a nonsmoker younger than 55 years old with multilobar disease. If the patients has either no identifiable factors associated with prolonged pneumonia resolution or the repeat chest radiograph at 1 month shows no appreciable change, further diagnostic testing is indicated. The route and duration of antibiotic therapy, another detail of the management of CAP patients that has changed recently, is complicated by the fact that the majority of patients with CAP have no pathogen identified. Therefore, in most instances the physician initiates empiric antibiotics on the basis of epidemiologic data. If an etiologic pathogen is identified (either initially or at a later time), then the antibiotic spectrum can be narrowed. When no pathogen is discovered, broad-spectrum empiric antibiotics are continued. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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