Pneumonia - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Pneumonia - Medical Malpractice

Acute pneumonia is an infection and/or inflammation of the lungs that is caused by a dangerous bacteria, virus or fungus. Parasites have the ability to cause pneumonia as well and have all the same symptoms as other types of pneumonia. Pneumonia is self limited and usually gets better with antibiotics or rest and supportive measures. It can be life threatening if a person is immunosuppressed, elderly or has HIV infections. Pneumonia can be severe or mild and usually responds to the proper treatment.

The symptoms of pneumonia involve a fever in some cases, a cough, bloody sputum in some cases, shortness of breath, the production of sputum, fatigue, headache, sweating, pleuritic chest pain, shaking chills, muscle aches and dull chest pain. Young people have more symptoms of pneumonia than older people, who often have no fever, slight cough and a lack of sputum production. They generally feel only malaise and shortness of breath as symptoms of pneumonia. If you have COPD or other lung disease, you are more likely to get pneumonia and to get more symptoms than if your lungs are healthy to begin with.

Pneumonia happens when you are invaded by pathogenic organisms and your immune system begins to fight off the infection. White blood cells flood the infected area and proteins that fight off infection get stimulated. The air sacs fill with pus and with proteins trying to kill off the infection. You begin to cough because the fluid is in the alveoli and bronchi and often you cough up phlegm.

Community acquired pneumonia happens when people are not in a hospital when they get the pneumonia. Hospital acquired pneumonia happens when you are hospitalized and get one of the many severe pathogens floating around the hospital. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common community acquired pneumonia. This is followed by Mycoplasma pneumonia, also called walking pneumonia. You don't get hospital acquired pneumonia until you have been in the hospital as a patient for at least forty eight hours. The pathogens are roughly the same except for the presence of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a hard to treat infection that is responsive to few antibiotics.

There is a condition called aspiration pneumonia in which a person is unable to swallow well. Food and other particles can get down the bronchial tree and can trigger pneumonia. People with an abnormal swallowing reflex and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS often get aspiration pneumonia if not treated with an alternate means of getting nutrition other than through the mouth.

People with AIDS or other immunodeficiency syndromes are more likely to get pneumonia than other people. They are more likely to get opportunistic infections like fungal infections or parasitic infections than those who can fight these infections off. Steroid use can block the immune system so that infections are more likely to occur. There can be epidemics of pneumonias due to flu viruses, such as H1N1 or other flu-like diseases.

Pneumonia is more common in those over the age of 65, those with chronic conditions of the lungs or other body areas, those with HIV or AIDS or those who are in an intensive care unit of a hospital. Patients who have COPD or chronic bronchitis from excessive smoking are more prone to getting pneumonia. If you are exposed to pollutants or chemicals, you can get pneumonia and if you take inhaled corticosteroids for asthma, pneumonia is more likely. Surgery or major traumatic injury puts you at a greater risk of pneumonia.

Pneumonia is generally diagnosed by a careful history and physical exam, which can show crackles or decreased lung sounds when auscultating the lungs. An x-ray or CT scan of the lungs often shows areas of pneumonia. Sputum can be evaluated for culturing the organism and can show white blood cells under the microscope.

The treatment of pneumonia is an antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal or an anti-parasitic drug that kills the infection. Medications to thin the sputum are also used so the bacteria can be coughed up more easily.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here