Hospital-acquired pneumonia (patient information)

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Hospital-acquired pneumonia


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?


Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Hospital-acquired pneumonia?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-In-Chief:Shivali Marketkar, M.B.B.S. [2]


Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that occurs during a hospital stay. This type of pneumonia can be very severe. Sometimes it can be fatal.

What are the symptoms of Hospital-acquired pneumonia?

In an elderly person, the first sign of hospital-acquired pneumonia may be mental changes or confusion. Other symptoms are:

  • A cough that may produce mucus-like, greenish, or pus-like phlegm (sputum)
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
  • Sharp chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Shortness of breath

What causes Hospital-acquired pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a common illness. It is caused by many different germs. Hospital-acquired pneumonia tends to be more serious than other lung infections because:

  • Patients in the hospital are often very sick and cannot fight off germs.
  • The types of germs present in a hospital are often more dangerous than those encountered in the community.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia occurs more often in patients who are using a respirator machine to help them breathe. This machine is also called a ventilator. This type of pneumonia is known as ventilator-associated pneumonia.Hospital-acquired pneumonia can also be spread by health care workers, who can pass germs from their hands or clothes from one patient to another. That is why hand-washing, wearing gowns, and using other safety measures is so important in the hospital.

Patients who are more prone to getting hospital-acquired pneumonia:

  • Have had chest surgery or other major surgery
  • Have long-term (chronic) lung disease
  • Breathe saliva or food into their lungs as a result of not being fully alert or problems swallowing
  • Are older


Tests to check for hospital-acquired pneumonia may include:

  • Arterial blood gases, to measure oxygen levels in the blood
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Pulse oximetry, to measure oxygen levels in the blood

Treatment options

You will receive antibiotics through your veins (IV) to treat your lung infection. The antibiotic you are given will fight the germs that are in your sputum culture.You may also receive oxygen to help you breathe better and lung treatments to loosen and remove thick mucus from your lungs.Patients who have other serious conditions do not recover as well from pneumonia as patients who are not as sick.

Where to find medical care for Hospital-acquired pneumonia?

to Hospitals Treating Hospital-acquired pneumonia


Wash your hands for at least 1 minute, like this:

  • Lather up well with warm water and soap.
  • Wash the backs and palms of your hands, fingers, between your fingers, and under your nails thoroughly.
  • Wash for as long as it takes you to say the alphabet slowly or sing the "Happy Birthday" song 2 times through.
  • Dry with a clean paper towel. Also, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door.
  • After any surgery, you will be asked to take deep breaths to help keep your lungs open. Follow the advice of your doctor and nurse to help prevent pneumonia.
  • Most hospitals have programs to prevent hospital-acquired infections.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Hospital-acquired pneumonia can be a life-threatening illness. Long-term lung damage may occur.


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