Diagnosis of Pneumonia and Monitoring of Infection Eradication

Ruiz, M.; Arosio, C.; Salman, P.; Bauer, T.T.; Torres, A.
December 2000
Drugs;Dec2000, Vol. 60 Issue 6, p1289
Academic Journal
Pneumonia can be classified as community-acquired (CAP) or hospital-acquired (nosocomial). Both are frequent infections that demand a great amount of medical resources. The diagnosis of CAP is based on clinical signs and the presence of a pulmonary infiltrate visible on chest radiograph. For practical purposes, CAP has been classified as typical, with an acute onset in which the most representative micro-organism is Streptococcus pneumoniae, and atypical, with a subacute onset (Mycoplasma pneumoniae). Nevertheless, so far no studies have clearly demonstrated the utility of this classification in predicting the aetiology. Guidelines on CAP recommend associating the aetiology of CAP with comorbidity, age and severity. The microbiological diagnosis relies mainly on Gram stain and sputum culture, but this technique has disadvantages such as frequent contamination of the sample with oropharyngeal commensal flora, frequent sterile cultures associated with previous antibiotic treatment, and the fact that approximately 40% of patients are not able to expectorate. Other diagnostic techniques such as blood cultures, serological tests and fibreoptic bronchoscopy must be reserved for patients who are hospitalised, especially if they need admission to an intensive care unit. Compared with CAP, nosocomial pneumonia has major diagnostic problems due to the presence of other diseases able to mimic pneumonia and frequent bacterial colonisation of the lower respiratory tract. Most of the diagnostic techniques produce a high percentage of false-negative and false-positive results. This is especially true for ventilator-associated pneumonia. There is controversy over using a comprehensive aetiological work-up based on bronchoscopic techniques or only on quantitative culture of endotracheal aspiration. By contrast, there is consensus about the importance of the adequacy of empirical antibiotic treatment, since mortality rates are higher in patients who are inadequately treated. Once treatment of pneumonia has begun, it must be maintained for 48 to 72 hours because this is the minimum time to evaluate a clinical response. Antibacterial agents have to be adjusted according to microbiological findings. In nonresponding patients, pneumonia-related complications and the presence of multiresistant micro-organisms or non-covered pathogens must be ruled out.


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