Aspiration pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by an infection contracted by breathing in foreign objects – it is also known as anaerobic pneumonia.
A study in Japan looked at the risk factors that contribute to the development of aspiration pneumonia. Even though it is a leading cause of death among aging populations, not much is still known about the disease.
Participants were divided into groups based on episodes of aspiration pneumonia. Based on the analysis, the researchers were able to develop a list of risk factors that increase the chances of aspiration pneumonia, including:
- Aspiration of sputum
- Daily oxygen therapy
- Dependence on food support
- Urinary catheterization
Deterioration of swallowing over a three-month period
Aspiration pneumonia causes
Bacteria and viruses are the most common causes of aspiration pneumonia. When we are healthy the immune system fights bacteria and viruses to keep us healthy, but if the germs are too strong they can overpower the immune system and contribute to disease.
Normally, air is the only substance that enters our lungs, so when food, drink, vomit, or saliva is inhaled into the lungs, it results in aspiration pneumonia. The chances of developing aspiration pneumonia are higher in a person who has a problem with their gag reflex, which can occur in people with brain damage or dysphagia.
Other causes of aspiration pneumonia include:
- Esophageal Disorders
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol
- Comatose state
- Reduced vigilance levels
- Swallowing problems
- Dental problems that interfere with chewing or swallowing
Complications of aspiration pneumonia
If left untreated, aspiration pneumonia can lead to complications, including spreading the infection to other parts of the body. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, it can become very dangerous and even fatal.
In some cases, aspiration pneumonia can cause shock or respiratory failure. If a patient has a condition that makes it difficult for them to swallow, the inflammation can make aspiration pneumonia worse and prevent proper healing.
A severe infection can cause long-term scarring of the lungs.
Related: Is Pneumonia Contagious?
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia are similar to other forms of pneumonia and include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- To cough
- Skin discoloration – usually blue
- Cough with sputum, blood or mucus
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bad breath
- Excessive sweating
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia will appear after a day or two.
Diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia
Your doctor will perform a variety of tests to determine a diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia. These tests include:
- Culture of sputum
- Complete blood count
- Arterial blood gas test
- CT scans of the chest
- Swallowing tests
- Blood culture
- Pulmonary radiography
Aspiration pneumonia treatment methods
Treatment for aspiration pneumonia depends on the severity of the condition. If the aspiration is severe, treatment may need to take place in a hospital setting. Otherwise, antibiotics can be prescribed and taken while resting at home.
Prevent aspiration pneumonia
Prevention of aspiration pneumonia is possible by following these helpful tips:
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, which can lead to aspiration.
- Recognize the signs of aspiration.
- Receive proper dental care.
- Manage conditions that increase your risk for aspiration pneumonia, such as lung infections, seizures, strokes, swallowing disorders, and neurological disease.
Aspiration pneumonia prognosis
The prognosis is largely based on how early a person is diagnosed and treated, and how well they were before aspiration pneumonia. Recovery is also based on the type of bacteria a person inhales.
Aspiration pneumonia is usually a more serious type of pneumonia, and patients with aspiration pneumonia are the most likely to go to the hospital or even die. In general, however, many patients survive, and early detection of aspiration pneumonia is the key to survival.
If a patient is older, doctors will pay special attention to their immunity to reduce the risk of life-threatening outcomes.
It is important that patients take a full course of antibiotics and do not stop them just because they start to feel better after a few days. This ensures that the bacteria are completely killed, so the risk of recurrence is minimal.
If a patient has a pre-existing condition that affects swallowing, recovery may be prolonged. In some cases, patients may develop lung scars or lung abscesses.
If you think you have aspiration pneumonia, be sure to see a doctor right away to reduce your risk of complications and improve the prognosis.