Aspiration pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by an infection contracted by inhaling foreign bodies. It is also known as anaerobic pneumonia.
A study from Japan looked at risk factors that contribute to the onset of aspiration pneumonia. Although it is one of the leading causes of death in aging populations, not much is known about this 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 risk of aspiration pneumonia, including:
- Suction of sputum
- Daily oxygen therapy
- Dependence on food support
- Urinary catheterization
Deterioration of swallowing within three months
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 powerful, they can overpower the immune system and contribute to illness.
Normally, air is the only substance that enters our lungs. So, when food, drink, vomit, or saliva is inhaled into the lungs, it leads to aspiration pneumonia. The chances of developing aspiration pneumonia are higher in someone who has a gag reflex problem, 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 alertness 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 deadly.
In some cases, aspiration pneumonia can lead to shock or respiratory failure. If a patient has a condition that makes it difficult to swallow, the inflammation can make aspiration pneumonia worse and prevent proper healing.
A severe infection can lead to 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 accompanied by 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:
- Sputum culture
- Complete blood count
- Arterial blood gas test
- CT scans of the chest
- Swallowing tests
- Blood culture
- Pulmonary radiography
Methods of treating aspiration pneumonia
Treatment for aspiration pneumonia depends on the severity of the disease. If 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 of aspiration pneumonia, such as lung infections, seizures, strokes, swallowing difficulties, and neurological diseases.
Prognosis of Aspiration Pneumonia
Prognosis is largely based on how quickly a person is diagnosed and treated as well as how healthy a person was 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 hospital or even die as a result. Typically, however, many patients survive, and early detection of aspiration pneumonia is 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 adhere to a full course of antibiotics and not stop them just because they start to feel better after a few days. This ensures that the bacteria is completely killed, so the chance of it reappearing 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 seek immediate medical attention to reduce your risk of complications and improve prognosis.