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Pneumonia is an infection of the lung. It is the most common infection the patients get while in the hospital. 


Certain conditions make a person at risk for getting pneumonia. These include: the need for a breathing machine, an operation, pain and sedation medicines, pain, and spinal cord injury. Pneumonia may also be caused from infections that spread to the lungs through the blood from other organs. 


Pneumonia is suspected in any patient who has fever, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, increased breathing rate, pus or bloody sputum (spit) and blue appearance of the nail beds or lips due to lack of oxygen. 


Diagnosis is based on the patient's symptoms, chest x-ray and an elevated white blood cell count. Listening with a stethoscope will reveal abnormal sounds. Identification of the specific type of bacteria may require culturing the sputum (using the sputum sample to grow greater numbers of the bacteria in a lab dish.). 

Treatment and Prevention

Antibiotics, especially given early in the course of the disease, are very effective against bacterial causes of pneumonia. Respiratory support with oxygen may be needed and in severe cases the patient may need ventilatory support. Preventive measures include:

  • Good hand washing
  • Good oral hygiene
  • Coughing, deep breathing and use the incentive spirometer regularly
  • Getting the patient out of the bed, if appropriate
  • Rountinely turn the patient from side to side to loosen secretions.
  • Keeping the head of the bed elevated, if appropriate

Source Citation: "Pneumonia." Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD. The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Second Edition. Jacqueline L. Longe, Editor. 5 vols. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2001.