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Pneumonia in immunocompromised host

Contents of this page:


Pneumococci organism
Pneumococci organism
The lungs
The lungs
Respiratory system
Respiratory system

Alternative Names    Return to top

Pneumonia in immunodeficient patient

Definition    Return to top

Pneumonia in an immunocompromised host describes a lung infection that occurs in a person whose ability to fight infection is greatly reduced.

See also:

Causes    Return to top

People who are immunocompromised have a defective immune response. Because of this, they are susceptible to infections by germs that typically do not cause disease in healthy people. They are also more vulnerable to the usual causes of pneumonia, which can affect anyone.

Immunosuppression can be caused by:

Symptoms    Return to top

Other symptoms that may occur:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The doctor may hear crackles or other abnormal breath sounds when listening to the chest with stethoscope. Lack of breath sounds can be an important sign, because it may mean there is a buildup of fluid between the chest wall and lung.

Tests may include:

Treatment    Return to top

Antibiotics or antifungal medicines are used, depending on the type of germ that is causing the infection. Patients usually must stay in the hospital, at least during the early stages of the illness.

Oxygen and respiratory treatments to remove fluid and mucus are often needed.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outcome may be poor if the pneumonia is caused by a virus or fungus, or if the patient is severely immunosuppressed.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if you are immunosuppressed and you have symptoms of pneumonia.

Prevention    Return to top

Limit exposure of immunocompromised people to others who are ill.

References    Return to top

Moran GJ, Talan DA. Pneumonia. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2006: chap 75.

Baldwin Dr, Macfarlane JT. Community-acquired pneumonia. In: Cohen J, Powderly WG, eds. Infectious Diseases. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Elsevier; 2004: chap 34.

Donowitz GR, Mandell GL. Acute pneumonia. In: Mandell GL, Bennett Je, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005: chap 61.

Mandell LA, Wunderink RG, Anzueto A, et al. Infectious Diseases Society of America/American Thoracic Society consensus guidelines on the management of community-acquired pneumonia in adults. Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Mar 1;44 Suppl 2:S27-72.

American Thoracic Society. Guidelines for the management of adults with hospital-acquired, ventilator-associated, and healthcare-associated pneumonia. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 Feb 15;171(4):388-416.

Update Date: 9/17/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, PhD, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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