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hospital acquired pneumonia

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Lungs and bronchial tree

Alternative Names 
nosocomial pneumonia

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is picked up while a person is in the hospital.

What is going on in the body? 
Because hospitals are filled with sick people, they often contain dangerous bacteria and other organisms. Sometimes, those who are in the hospital for other reasons can catch pneumonia while there. This type of pneumonia can often make a person quite ill and can even cause death.

What are the signs and symptoms of the infection? 
Symptoms of hospital-acquired pneumonia may include: What are the causes and risks of the infection? 
Hospital acquired pneumonia often occurs in persons who are already quite sick. These people are less able to fight off infections. Those who are on a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine, or in the intensive care unit are at a high risk for this type of pneumonia.

What can be done to prevent the infection? 
Infection control measures in the hospital monitor for hospital-acquired pneumonia. There is little that can be done in a specific person to prevent this infection.

How is the infection diagnosed? 
The doctor can diagnose pneumonia by studying a person's health history, doing a physical examination, and taking a chest x-ray and blood tests. Sputum samples may also be tested to identify the organism causing the infection.

What are the long-term effects of the infection? 
Severe hospital-acquired pneumonia can cause long-term damage to the lungs. A person who is weakened by other diseases, such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease such as emphysema, are more susceptible to the serious effects of pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common cause of death.

What are the risks to others? 
Pneumonia is contagious and can be spread to others. Hospital acquired pneumonia tends to affect those who are already quite sick, so healthy persons are often at little risk. Those with hospital acquired pneumonia may need to be isolated from other hospital patients.

What are the treatments for the infection? 
Treatment of hospital-acquired pneumonia involves the use of antibiotics, intravenous fluids, oxygen, and continued hospitalisation.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Antibiotics can cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, and other side effects.

What happens after treatment for the infection? 
If the person recovers from the pneumonia and has no other health problems that require hospital treatment, he or she can often go home.

How is the infection monitored? 
Symptoms, physical examination findings, chest x-rays, and blood tests may all be used to monitor the hospital-acquired pneumonia. Any new or worsening symptoms that develop after discharge from the hospital should be reported to the doctor.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 19/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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