Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is picked up while a person is in the hospital.
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.
Symptoms of hospital-acquired pneumonia may include: fevercoughabnormal phlegm or mucous productionmalaise or "feeling lousy"fatiguedifficulty breathing, or shortness of breathchest pain
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.
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.
The healthcare professional can diagnose pneumonia by studying a person's health history, doing a physical exam, and taking a chest x-ray and blood tests. Sputum samples may also be tested to identify the organism causing 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.
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.
Treatment of hospital-acquired pneumonia involves the use of antibiotics, intravenous fluids, oxygen, and continued hospitalization.
Antibiotics can cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, and other side effects.
If the person recovers from the pneumonia and has no other health problems that require hospital treatment, he or she can often go home.
Symptoms, physical exam 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 healthcare professional.
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 1998, Fauci et al