Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that occurs during a hospital stay. This type of pneumonia can be very severe. Sometimes, it can be fatal.
Pneumonia is a common illness. It is caused by many different germs. Pneumonia that starts in the hospital tends to be more serious than other lung infections because:
Pneumonia occurs more often in people who are using a respirator, which is a machine that helps them breathe.
Hospital-acquired pneumonia can also be spread by health care workers, who can pass germs from their hands, clothes, or instruments from one person to another. This is why hand-washing, wearing gowns, and using other safety measures is so important in the hospital.
People can be more likely to get pneumonia while in the hospital if they:
In older adults, the first sign of hospital-acquired pneumonia may be mental changes or confusion.
Other symptoms may include:
If the health care provider suspects pneumonia, tests will be ordered. These may include:
Treatments may include:
People who have other serious illnesses do not recover as well from pneumonia as people who are not as sick.
Hospital-acquired pneumonia can be a life-threatening illness. Long-term lung damage may occur.
People visiting loved ones in the hospital need to take steps to prevent spreading germs. The best way to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands often. Stay home if you are sick. Keep your immunizations up to date.
After any surgery, you will be asked to take deep breaths and move around as soon as possible to help keep your lungs open. Follow the advice of your provider to help prevent pneumonia.
Most hospitals have programs to prevent hospital-acquired infections.
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.