AskDefine | Define pneumonia

Dictionary Definition

pneumonia n : respiratory disease characterized by inflammation of the lung parenchyma (excluding the bronchi) with congestion caused by viruses or bacteria or irritants

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

  • /nʊmonjə/

Etymology

Ancient Greek πνευμονία, πλευμονία (pneumonia, pleumonia lung disease), from πνεύμων, πλεύμων (pneumōn, pleumōn lungs). The later spellings in πν- (pn-) are perhaps influenced by πνεῦμα (pneuma, breath).

Noun

pneumonia
  1. An acute or chronic inflammation of the lungs caused by viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms, or sometimes by physical or chemical irritants.

Translations

inflammation of the lungs

Extensive Definition

Pneumonia is an inflammatory illness of the lung. Frequently, it is described as lung parenchyma/alveolar inflammation and abnormal alveolar filling with fluid. (The alveoli are microscopic air-filled sacs in the lungs responsible for absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere.) Pneumonia can result from a variety of causes, including infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites, and chemical or physical injury to the lungs. Its cause may also be officially described as idiopathic—that is, unknown—when infectious causes have been excluded.
Typical symptoms associated with pneumonia include cough, chest pain, fever, and difficulty in breathing. Diagnostic tools include x-rays and examination of the sputum. Treatment depends on the cause of pneumonia; bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics.
Pneumonia is a common illness which occurs in all age groups, and is a leading cause of death among the elderly and people who are chronically and terminally ill. Vaccines to prevent certain types of pneumonia are available. The prognosis depends on the type of pneumonia, the appropriate treatment, any complications, and the person's underlying health.

Signs and symptoms

People with infectious pneumonia often have a cough producing greenish or yellow sputum, or phlegm and a high fever that may be accompanied by shaking chills. Shortness of breath is also common, as is pleuritic chest pain, a sharp or stabbing pain, either experienced during deep breaths or coughs or worsened by it. People with pneumonia may cough up blood, experience headaches, or develop sweaty and clammy skin. Other possible symptoms are loss of appetite, fatigue, blueness of the skin, nausea, vomiting, mood swings, and joint pains or muscle aches. Less common forms of pneumonia can cause other symptoms; for instance, pneumonia caused by Legionella may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea, while pneumonia caused by tuberculosis or Pneumocystis may cause only weight loss and night sweats. In elderly people manifestations of pneumonia may not be typical. They may develop a new or worsening confusion or may experience unsteadiness, leading to falls. Infants with pneumonia may have many of the symptoms above, but in many cases they are simply sleepy or have a decreased appetite.
Symptoms of pneumonia need immediate medical evaluation. Physical examination by a health care provider may reveal fever or sometimes low body temperature, an increased respiratory rate, low blood pressure, a fast heart rate, or a low oxygen saturation, which is the amount of oxygen in the blood as indicated by either pulse oximetry or blood gas analysis. People who are struggling to breathe, who are confused, or who have cyanosis (blue-tinged skin) require immediate attention.
Physical examination of the lungs may be normal, but often shows decreased expansion of the chest on the affected side, bronchial breathing on auscultation with a stethoscope (harsher sounds from the larger airways transmitted through the inflamed and consolidated lung), and rales heard over the affected area. Percussion may be dulled over the affected lung, but increased rather than decreased vocal resonance (which distinguishes it from a pleural effusion).

Diagnosis

If pneumonia is suspected on the basis of a patient's symptoms and findings from physical examination, further investigations are needed to confirm the diagnosis. Information from a chest X-ray and blood tests are helpful, and sputum cultures in some cases. The chest X-ray is typically used for diagnosis in hospitals and some clinics with X-ray facilities. However, in a community setting (general practice), pneumonia is usually diagnosed based on symptoms and physical examination alone. Diagnosing pneumonia can be difficult in some people, especially those who have other illnesses. Occasionally a chest CT scan or other tests may be needed to distinguish pneumonia from other illnesses.

Investigations

An important test for pneumonia in unclear situations is a chest x-ray. Chest x-rays can reveal areas of opacity (seen as white) which represent consolidation. Pneumonia is not always seen on x-rays, either because the disease is only in its initial stages, or because it involves a part of the lung not easily seen by x-ray. In some cases, chest CT (computed tomography) can reveal pneumonia that is not seen on chest x-ray. X-rays can be misleading, because other problems, like lung scarring and congestive heart failure, can mimic pneumonia on x-ray. Chest x-rays are also used to evaluate for complications of pneumonia. (See below.)
If antibiotics fail to improve the patient's health, or if the health care provider has concerns about the diagnosis, a culture of the person's sputum may be requested. Sputum cultures generally take at least two to three days, so they are mainly used to confirm that the infection is sensitive to an antibiotic that has already been started. A blood sample may similarly be cultured to look for infection in the blood (blood culture). Any bacteria identified are then tested to see which antibiotics will be most effective.
A complete blood count may show a high white blood cell count, indicating the presence of an infection or inflammation. In some people with immune system problems, the white blood cell count may appear deceptively normal. Blood tests may be used to evaluate kidney function (important when prescribing certain antibiotics) or to look for low blood sodium. Low blood sodium in pneumonia is thought to be due to extra anti-diuretic hormone produced when the lungs are diseased (SIADH). Specific blood serology tests for other bacteria (Mycoplasma, Legionella and Chlamydophila) and a urine test for Legionella antigen are available. Respiratory secretions can also be tested for the presence of viruses such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and adenovirus. Liver function tests should be carried out to test for damage caused by sepsis.
  • Temperature > 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C)
  • Pulse > 100 beats/min
  • Crackles
  • Decreased breath sounds
  • Absence of asthma
The probability of an infiltrate in two separate validations was based on the number of findings:
  • 5 findings - 84% to 91% probability
  • 4 findings - 58% to 85%
  • 3 findings - 35% to 51%
  • 2 findings - 14% to 24%
  • 1 findings - 5% to 9%
  • 0 findings - 2% to 3%
A subsequent study comparing four prediction rules to physician judgment found that two rules, the one above were more accurate than physician judgment because of the increased specificity of the prediction rules.

Differential diagnosis

Several diseases and/or conditions can present with similar clinical features to pneumonia and as such care must be taken in the proper diagnosis of the disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma can present with a polyphonic wheeze, similar to that of pneumonia. Pulmonary edema can be mistaken for pneumonia due to it's ability to show a third heart sound and present with an abnormal ECG. Other diseases to be taken into consideration include bronchiectasis, lung cancer and pulmonary emboli.
Antibiotics for hospital-acquired pneumonia include vancomycin, third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins, carbapenems, fluoroquinolones, and aminoglycosides. These antibiotics are usually given intravenously. Multiple antibiotics may be administered in combination in an attempt to treat all of the possible causative microorganisms. Antibiotic choices vary from hospital to hospital because of regional differences in the most likely microorganisms, and because of differences in the microorganisms' abilities to resist various antibiotic treatments.
People who have difficulty breathing due to pneumonia may require extra oxygen. Extremely sick individuals may require intensive care treatment, often including intubation and artificial ventilation.
Viral pneumonia caused by influenza A may be treated with rimantadine or amantadine, while viral pneumonia caused by influenza A or B may be treated with oseltamivir or zanamivir. These treatments are beneficial only if they are started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Many strains of H5N1 influenza A, also known as avian influenza or "bird flu," have shown resistance to rimantadine and amantadine. There are no known effective treatments for viral pneumonias caused by the SARS coronavirus, adenovirus, hantavirus, or parainfluenza virus.

Complications

Sometimes pneumonia can lead to additional complications. Complications are more frequently associated with bacterial pneumonia than with viral pneumonia. The most important complications include:

Respiratory and circulatory failure

Because pneumonia affects the lungs, often people with pneumonia have difficulty breathing, and it may not be possible for them to breathe well enough to stay alive without support. Non-invasive breathing assistance may be helpful, such as with a bi-level positive airway pressure machine. In other cases, placement of an endotracheal tube (breathing tube) may be necessary, and a ventilator may be used to help the person breathe.
Pneumonia can also cause respiratory failure by triggering acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which results from a combination of infection and inflammatory response. The lungs quickly fill with fluid and become very stiff. This stiffness, combined with severe difficulties extracting oxygen due to the alveolar fluid, create a need for mechanical ventilation. Sepsis and septic shock are potential complications of pneumonia. Sepsis occurs when microorganisms enter the bloodstream and the immune system responds by secreting cytokines. Sepsis most often occurs with bacterial pneumonia; Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause. Individuals with sepsis or septic shock need hospitalization in an intensive care unit. They often require intravenous fluids and medications to help keep their blood pressure from dropping too low. Sepsis can cause liver, kidney, and heart damage, among other problems, and it often causes death.

Pleural effusion, empyema, and abscess

Occasionally, microorganisms infecting the lung will cause fluid (a pleural effusion) to build up in the space that surrounds the lung (the pleural cavity). If the microorganisms themselves are present in the pleural cavity, the fluid collection is called an empyema. When pleural fluid is present in a person with pneumonia, the fluid can often be collected with a needle (thoracentesis) and examined. Depending on the results of this examination, complete drainage of the fluid may be necessary, often requiring a chest tube. In severe cases of empyema, surgery may be needed. If the fluid is not drained, the infection may persist, because antibiotics do not penetrate well into the pleural cavity.
Rarely, bacteria in the lung will form a pocket of infected fluid called an abscess. Lung abscesses can usually be seen with a chest x-ray or chest CT scan. Abscesses typically occur in aspiration pneumonia and often contain several types of bacteria. Antibiotics are usually adequate to treat a lung abscess, but sometimes the abscess must be drained by a surgeon or radiologist.

Prognosis and mortality

With treatment, most types of bacterial pneumonia can be cleared within two to four weeks. Viral pneumonia may last longer, and mycoplasmal pneumonia may take four to six weeks to resolve completely. In cases where the pneumonia progresses to blood poisoning (bacteremia), just over 20% of sufferers will die.
The death rate (or mortality) also depends on the underlying cause of the pneumonia. Pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma, for instance, is associated with little mortality. However, about half of the people who develop methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) pneumonia while on a ventilator will die. In regions of the world without advanced health care systems, pneumonia is even deadlier. Limited access to clinics and hospitals, limited access to x-rays, limited antibiotic choices, and inability to treat underlying conditions inevitably leads to higher rates of death from pneumonia.

Clinical prediction rules

Clinical prediction rules have been developed to more objectively prognosticate outcomes in pneumonia. These rules can be helpful in deciding whether or not to hospitalize the person.

Prevention

There are several ways to prevent infectious pneumonia. Appropriately treating underlying illnesses (such as AIDS) can decrease a person's risk of pneumonia. Smoking cessation is important not only because it helps to limit lung damage, but also because cigarette smoke interferes with many of the body's natural defenses against pneumonia.
Research shows that there are several ways to prevent pneumonia in newborn infants. Testing pregnant women for Group B Streptococcus and Chlamydia trachomatis, and then giving antibiotic treatment if needed, reduces pneumonia in infants. Suctioning the mouth and throat of infants with meconium-stained amniotic fluid decreases the rate of aspiration pneumonia.
Vaccination is important for preventing pneumonia in both children and adults. Vaccinations against Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae in the first year of life have greatly reduced their role in pneumonia in children. Vaccinating children against Streptococcus pneumoniae has also led to a decreased incidence of these infections in adults because many adults acquire infections from children. A vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae is also available for adults. In the U.S., it is currently recommended for all healthy individuals older than 65 and any adults with emphysema, congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholism, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, or those who do not have a spleen. A repeat vaccination may also be required after five or ten years.
Influenza vaccines should be given yearly to the same individuals who receive vaccination against Streptococcus pneumoniae. In addition, health care workers, nursing home residents, and pregnant women should receive the vaccine. When an influenza outbreak is occurring, medications such as amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir, and oseltamivir can help prevent influenza.

Epidemiology

Pneumonia is a common illness in all parts of the world. It is a major cause of death among all age groups. In children, the majority of deaths occur in the newborn period, with over two million deaths a year worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that one in three newborn infant deaths are due to pneumonia and WHO also estimates that up to 1 million of these (vaccine preventable) deaths are caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, and 90% of these deaths take place in developing countries. Mortality from pneumonia generally decreases with age until late adulthood. Elderly individuals, however, are at particular risk for pneumonia and associated mortality.
In the United Kingdom, the annual incidence of pneumonia is approximately 6 cases for every 1000 people for the 18-39 age group. For those over 75 years of age, this rises to 75 cases for every 1000 people. Roughly 20-40% of individuals who contract pneumonia require hospital admission of which between 5-10% are admitted to a critical care unit. Similarly, the mortality rate in the UK is around 5-10%. These individuals are also more likely to have repeated episodes of pneumonia. People who are hospitalized for any reason are also at high risk for pneumonia.

History

The symptoms of pneumonia were described by Hippocrates (c. 460 BC–370 BC): ''Peripneumonia, and pleuritic affections, are to be thus observed: If the fever be acute, and if there be pains on either side, or in both, and if expiration be if cough be present, and the sputa expectorated be of a blond or livid color, or likewise thin, frothy, and florid, or having any other character different from the common... When pneumonia is at its height, the case is beyond remedy if he is not purged, and it is bad if he has dyspnoea, and urine that is thin and acrid, and if sweats come out about the neck and head, for such sweats are bad, as proceeding from the suffocation, rales, and the violence of the disease which is obtaining the upper hand''.
However, Hippocrates referred to pneumonia as a disease "named by the ancients." He also reported the results of surgical drainage of empyemas. Maimonides (1138–1204 AD) observed "The basic symptoms which occur in pneumonia and which are never lacking are as follows: acute fever, sticking [pleuritic] pain in the side, short rapid breaths, serrated pulse and cough." This clinical description is quite similar to those found in modern textbooks, and it reflected the extent of medical knowledge through the Middle Ages into the 19th century.
Bacteria were first seen in the airways of individuals who died from pneumonia by Edwin Klebs in 1875. Initial work identifying the two common bacterial causes Streptococcus pneumoniae and Klebsiella pneumoniae was performed by Carl Friedländer and Albert Fränkel in 1882 and 1884, respectively. Friedländer's initial work introduced the Gram stain, a fundamental laboratory test still used to identify and categorize bacteria. Christian Gram's paper describing the procedure in 1884 helped differentiate the two different bacteria and showed that pneumonia could be caused by more than one microorganism.
Sir William Osler, known as "the father of modern medicine," appreciated the morbidity and mortality of pneumonia, describing it as the "captain of the men of death" in 1918. However, several key developments in the 1900s improved the outcome for those with pneumonia. With the advent of penicillin and other antibiotics, modern surgical techniques, and intensive care in the twentieth century, mortality from pneumonia dropped precipitously in the developed world. Vaccination of infants against Haemophilus influenzae type b began in 1988 and led to a dramatic decline in cases shortly thereafter. Vaccination against Streptococcus pneumoniae in adults began in 1977 and in children began in 2000, resulting in a similar decline.

Notes

pneumonia in Amharic: ኒሞንያ
pneumonia in Arabic: ذات الرئة
pneumonia in Bengali: নিউমোনিয়া
pneumonia in Bosnian: Upala pluća
pneumonia in Bulgarian: Пневмония
pneumonia in Catalan: Pneumònia
pneumonia in Czech: Zápal plic
pneumonia in Danish: Lungebetændelse
pneumonia in German: Lungenentzündung
pneumonia in Modern Greek (1453-): Πνευμονία
pneumonia in Spanish: Neumonía
pneumonia in Esperanto: Pneŭmonio
pneumonia in Basque: Pneumonia
pneumonia in French: Pneumonie
pneumonia in Galician: Pneumonía
pneumonia in Korean: 폐렴
pneumonia in Croatian: Pneumonija
pneumonia in Indonesian: Pneumonia
pneumonia in Icelandic: Lungnabólga
pneumonia in Italian: Polmonite
pneumonia in Hebrew: דלקת ריאות
pneumonia in Kurdish: Sîyê sokan
pneumonia in Latin: Pneumonia
pneumonia in Luxembourgish: Pneumonie
pneumonia in Hungarian: Tüdőgyulladás
pneumonia in Dutch: Longontsteking
pneumonia in Japanese: 肺炎
pneumonia in Norwegian: Lungebetennelse
pneumonia in Norwegian Nynorsk: Lungebetennelse
pneumonia in Polish: Zapalenie płuc
pneumonia in Portuguese: Pneumonia
pneumonia in Romanian: Pneumonie
pneumonia in Russian: Пневмония
pneumonia in Albanian: Pneumonia
pneumonia in Sicilian: Purmunìa
pneumonia in Simple English: Pneumonia
pneumonia in Serbian: Упала плућа
pneumonia in Finnish: Keuhkokuume
pneumonia in Swedish: Lunginflammation
pneumonia in Thai: โรคปอดบวม
pneumonia in Vietnamese: Viêm phổi
pneumonia in Turkish: Zatürree
pneumonia in Ukrainian: Пневмонія
pneumonia in Yiddish: לונגען אנטצינדונג
pneumonia in Chinese: 肺炎

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

African lethargy, Asiatic cholera, Asiatic flu, Chagres fever, German measles, Haverhill fever, Hong Kong flu, acute articular rheumatism, acute bronchitis, adenoiditis, ague, alkali disease, aluminosis, amebiasis, amebic dysentery, amygdalitis, anthracosilicosis, anthracosis, anthrax, asbestosis, asthma, atypical pneumonia, bacillary dysentery, bastard measles, bituminosis, black death, black fever, black lung, blackwater fever, breakbone fever, bronchial pneumonia, bronchiectasis, bronchiolitis, bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, brucellosis, bubonic plague, cachectic fever, catarrh, cerebral rheumatism, chalicosis, chicken pox, cholera, chronic bronchitis, cold, collapsed lung, common cold, coniosis, coryza, cowpox, croup, croupous pneumonia, dandy fever, deer fly fever, dengue, dengue fever, diphtheria, double pneumonia, dry pleurisy, dumdum fever, dysentery, elephantiasis, emphysema, empyema, encephalitis lethargica, enteric fever, epidemic pleurodynia, erysipelas, famine fever, fibrinous pneumonia, five-day fever, flu, frambesia, glandular fever, grippe, hansenosis, hay fever, hepatitis, herpes, herpes simplex, herpes zoster, histoplasmosis, hookworm, hydrophobia, infantile paralysis, infectious mononucleosis, inflammatory rheumatism, influenza, jail fever, jungle rot, kala azar, kissing disease, la grippe, laryngitis, lepra, leprosy, leptospirosis, lipoid pneumonia, loa loa, loaiasis, lobar pneumonia, lockjaw, lung cancer, lung fever, madness, malaria, malarial fever, marsh fever, measles, meningitis, milzbrand, mumps, ornithosis, osteomyelitis, paratyphoid fever, parotitis, parrot fever, pertussis, pharyngitis, pleurisy, pleuritis, pneumococcal pneumonia, pneumoconiosis, pneumonic fever, pneumothorax, polio, poliomyelitis, polyarthritis rheumatism, ponos, psittacosis, quinsy, rabbit fever, rabies, rat-bite fever, relapsing fever, rheum, rheumatic fever, rickettsialpox, ringworm, rubella, rubeola, scarlatina, scarlet fever, schistosomiasis, septic sore throat, shingles, siderosis, silicosis, sleeping sickness, sleepy sickness, smallpox, snail fever, sore throat, splenic fever, spotted fever, strep throat, swamp fever, swine flu, tetanus, the sniffles, the snuffles, thrush, tinea, tonsilitis, trench fever, trench mouth, tuberculosis, tularemia, typhoid, typhoid fever, typhus, typhus fever, undulant fever, vaccinia, varicella, variola, venereal disease, viral dysentery, virus pneumonia, wet pleurisy, whooping cough, yaws, yellow fever, yellow jack, zona, zoster
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