Aspiration pneumonia is the inflammation of the lungs caused by breathing in foreign material. This infection is caused by accidentally inhaling secretions of the mouth or contents from the stomach like acid/semi digested food. These materials then damage the lungs and cause blockages in the air passages leading to the lungs. The condition could then lead to abscess or a collection of pus and cause the lungs to be filled with fluid. Aspiration pneumonia could occur due to a personís inability to swallow either because of a stroke, seizure or loss of consciousness.
In healthy individuals, foreign particles entering the mouth or the saliva that drips into the throat is cleared by the natural defenses of the body like coughing or sneezing before they can enter the lungs and cause any harm. In the event that these particles are not cleared due to an impaired defense mechanism, they can cause aspirated pneumonia.
The elderly or persons under the influence of alcohol or those under the effect of anesthesia or under a coma are at increased risk of aspirated pneumonia. Persons with decreased levels of consciousness or those with a central nervous system disorder often have impaired upper and lower airway reflexes. They could also be at risk of suffering from aspiration pneumonia.
Aspiration of foreign particles can also result from disorders of the esophagus, an absent gag reflex or even dental problems. The extent of injury to the lungs depends on the texture and quantity of the aspirated substance. Generally, greater the acidity of the substance greater is the degree of damage. The injured lung could then get infected with bacteria or by the formation of pus.
Symptoms of aspirated begin only after a day or two. Following are some of the symptoms of aspirated pneumonia.
- Bluish tinge to the skin
- Pain in chest
- Cough with foul smelling or greenish sputum, with phlegm consisting of pus or blood
- Fever and fatigue
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating and Foul breath
- Difficulty in swallowing
The doctor will diagnose aspiration pneumonia by using a stethoscope to listen to your heart and lungs. Blood tests and chest X rays may also be needed to determine the infection. You may also be asked to undergo special barium swallowing tests to ascertain the condition of the throat and your ability to swallow. The doctor may even recommend an endoscopy to have a look at your throat, esophagus and stomach.
In case aspiration pneumonia is diagnosed, you may need to get admitted to the hospital and would be put on a course of antibiotics. The procedures will vary depending on the severity of the disease. Oxygen could to be administered or the patient may even be provided with artificial respiration using a machine. Bronchoscopy could be conducted to remove any solid material that may have been aspirated. Care givers may put the patient on a special therapy to help treat swallowing problems and decrease the chances of swallowing something into the lungs again.
Aspiration pneumonia could be a serious life threatening disease causing respiratory failure. The lung infection could spread into the blood stream or even to other parts of the body. The disease can be dangerous for people over 50 years of age or those with compromised immune systems. Recovery from aspiration pneumonia can take a long time. It is better to begin treatment as promptly as possible to ensure a fast and problem free recuperation.
Aspiration pneumonia mostly occurs due to a defect of protective upper and lower airway reflexes in patients who have a low level of consciousness or central nervous system disease.
Aspiration Pneumonia Causes
Aspiration Pneumonia Symptoms
Aspiration Pneumonia Diagnosis
Aspiration Pneumonia Treatment