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Pulmonary Conditions & Diseases: Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is a lung infection caused when contents within the stomach or mouth are aspirated (inhaled) into the lungs. These contents can include vomit, food, liquids or saliva. Aspiration pneumonia can occur at any age, but is the highest in adults over 65 years old.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough with or without sputum production
  • Fever
  • Wheezing
  • Chest discomfort

What are the risk factors and triggers?

The following conditions can lead to impaired swallowing and/or decrease level of consciousness, therefore increasing ones’ risk of aspiration pneumonia

  • Stroke
  • Using muscle relaxers, sedatives, alcohol or anesthesia
  • Dental problems that may impair ability to chew food
  • Esophageal disorders
  • Throat cancers
  • Neurological disorders

How is it diagnosed?

  • Chest x-ray
  • Sputum culture
  • CBC
  • Arterial blood gas

What is the treatment?

Treatment often depends on the severity of the patient’s condition and a specific treatment plan is created for each individual. Treatment options may include antibiotics, breathing treatments, oxygen therapy and bronchoscopy (removal of contents from the lung using a bronchoscope). Ideally treatment is aimed at preventing aspiration pneumonia from reoccurring. Prevention measures include preventing excessive alcohol intake or avoiding medications that can alter mentation leading to impaired swallowing. Additionally, good dental hygiene, and sitting upright while you are eating can reduce the occurrence of aspiration pneumonia

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