Aspiration pneumonia

Definition

Pneumonia is a breathing condition in which there is swelling or an infection of the lungs or large airways.

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food, saliva, liquids, or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs, instead of being swallowed into the esophagus and stomach.

Causes

The type of bacteria that caused the pneumonia depends on:

Risk factors for breathing in (aspiration) of foreign material into the lungs are:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will listen for crackles or abnormal breath sounds when listening to your chest with a stethoscope. Tapping on your chest wall (percussion) helps the provider listen and feel for abnormal sounds in your chest.

If pneumonia is suspected, the provider will likely order a chest x-ray.

The following tests may also help diagnose this condition:

Treatment

Some people may need to be hospitalized. Treatment depends on how severe the pneumonia is and how ill the person is before the aspiration (chronic illness). Sometimes a ventilator (breathing machine) is needed to support breathing.

You will likely receive antibiotics.

You may need to have your swallowing function tested. People who have trouble swallowing may need to use other feeding methods to reduce the risk of aspiration.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outcome depends on:

More severe infections may result in long-term damage to the lungs.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider, go to the emergency room, or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have:


Review Date: 7/16/2017
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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