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Hospital-acquired pneumonia

  • Definition

    Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that occurs during a hospital stay.

    Alternative Names

    Nosocomial pneumonia; Ventilator-associated pneumonia; Health-care associated pneumonia

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Pneumonia is a very common illness. It is caused by many different germs, and the infection can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening.

    Hospital-acquired pneumonia tends to be more serious than other lung infections, because:

    • Patients in the hospital are often sicker and unable to fight off germs.
    • The types of germs present in a hospital are often more dangerous than those encountered in the community.

    Hospital-acquired pneumonia occurs more often in patients who are using a respirator machine (also called a ventilator) to help them breathe. When pneumonia occurs in a patient who is on a ventilator, it is known as ventilator-associated pneumonia.

    Risk factors for hospital-acquired pneumonia include:

    • Alcoholism
    • Being on a breathing machine
    • Breathing saliva or food into the lungs (aspiration)
    • Chest surgery
    • Immunosuppression (immune system does not work well)
    • Long-term (chronic) lung disease
    • Not being fully alert
    • Older age
    • Recent illness