Hospital-acquired pneumonia medical therapy

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Editor(s)-in-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. ; Philip Marcus, M.D., M.P.H.Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Chetan Lokhande, M.B.B.S [1]; Alejandro Lemor, M.D. [2]


Antimicrobial therapy is indicated in hospital-acquired penumonia. The medical regimen in patients with hospital-acquired pneumonia depends on the risk factors and the likelihood of drug resistance pathogens. For patients with no risk factors for multidrug-resistant pathogens, the regimen consists of one antibiotic, usually Ceftriaxone or a Fluoroquinolone. For patients with risk of multidrug-resistant pathogens, a three drug combination regimen is preferred.

Medical Therapy

American Thoracic Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America Guidelines from 2017: The most recent clinical practice guidelines from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) are from 2016[1], and replace the 2005 IDSA clinical practice guidelines the treatment regimen will depend on the risk factors and the likelihood of drug resistance[2]

  • The duration of the antimicrobial therapy should be individualize based on the patient clinical response. The usual duration is 7 days, but the causative pathogen can change the duration of this.
  • Choosing antibiotic regimens that are concordant with the American Thoracic Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America Guidelines published in 2005 may not improve outcomes[3][4][5][6][7].
  • Antibiotic instead should be chosen based on risk of multidrug-resistant pathogens
    • "Prior intravenous antibiotic use within 90 days"
    • "hospitalization in a unit where >20% of S. aureus isolates are methicillin resistant, or the prevalence of MRSA is not known"
    • Increased risk of mortality due to either requiring ventilatory support due to hospital-acquired pneumonia or presence of septic shock

American Thoracic Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America Guidelines from 2005:

  • Health care-associated pneumonia[2]
  • 1 Empiric antimicrobial therapy
  • 1.1 No risk factors for multi drug resistance
  • 1.2 Risk factors for multi drug resistance
  • Preferred Regimen: (Cefepime 1-2 g q8-12h OR Ceftazidime 2 g q8h OR Imipenem 500 mg q6h or 1g q8h OR Meropenem 1 g q8h OR Piperacillin-tazobactam 4.5 g q6h) AND (Ciprofloxacin 400 mg q8h OR Levofloxacin 750 mg q24h OR Amikacin 20 mg/kg per day OR Gentamycin 7 mg/kg per day OR Tobramycin 7 mg/kg per day) AND (Linezolid 600 mg q12h OR Vancomycin 15 mg/kg q12h).
  • Note (1): Health care-associated pneumonia used to designate large diverse population of patients with many co-morbidities who reside in nursing homes, other long-term care facilities, require home intravenous therapy (or) are dialysis patients. Pneumonia in these patients frequently resembles hospital-acquired pneumonia.
  • Note (2): Trough levels for Gentamycin and Tobramycin should be less than 1 g/ml, and for Amikacin they should be less than 4-5 g/ml.
  • Note (3): Trough levels for Vancomycin should be 15-20 g/ml.

Special Considerations

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

High Risk Patients
  • Critically ill patients
  • History of recent antibiotic therapy
  • Patient admitted in a hospital with increased incidence of MRSA.
Antibiotic Choice for MRSA
  • Vancomycin (15-20 mg/kg q8hr or q12 hr in patients with normal renal function and target vancomycin of 15 - 20 mg/L)
  • Linezolid - 600 mg twice daily IV or orally
  • Teicoplanin
  • Clindamycin if documented susceptibility present
  • In case no MRSA is isolated on culture these antibiotics should be discontinued.
Advantages of Linezolid over Vancomycin

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is a common isolate in the patients with Hospital-acquired pneumonia. The treatment options commonly used are vancomycin, linezolid, and clindamycin. Linezolid may be preferred in patients with renal insufficiency as the nephrotoxicity with linezolid is less compared to vancomycin. Additionally, in patients with vancomycin MIC ≥ 2mcg/mL linezolid is preferred. Linezolid resistance and failure are rare.

Side-effects of Linezolid
Side-effects of Vancomycin
Vancomycin Trough
  • The target vancomycin trough concentrations is 15 to 20 mcg/mL [2], [8], [9].
Supportive Trial Data [10]

In a study done in 1184 patients treated with linezolid and vancomycin no significant difference in 60 days mortality were found between the two groups. The side-effects profile were similar in both the groups however nephrotoxicity was commoner in the vancomycin group. Linezolid was found to be non-inferior to vancomycin for clinical outcome, and microbiologic outcome at end of treatment and end of study.

Methicillin Sensitive Staphylococcus Aureus

  • If the culture grows methicillin sensitive staphylococcus aureus then empiric treatment for MRSA should be stopped and MSSA agents such as nafcillin (2g iv Q4hrly) or oxacillin (2g iv Q4hrly) should be started.

Gram Negative Pathogen

  • There is a lack of consensus regarding the choice of antibiotics for gram negative pathogens in ventilator associated pneumonia, and health care associated pneumonia.
  • Large randomized clinical trials regarding the choice of anti-microbial agents in these conditions are lacking.
  • Many hospitals prefer combination drug therapy over monotherpy in these conditions. The rationale behind these are:
    • Wide coverage of pathogenic strains
    • Avoidance of development of antibiotic resistant strains.
    • In ICU settings cephalosporins should be avoided as monotherapy, due to problems of developments of resistant organism.
    • The preferred agants in ICU settings are: carbapenem (ertapenem, meropenem, doripenem, and imipenem-cilastatin).


At Risk Population
Anti-Microbial Agents


Anti-Microbial Agents

Major Points and Recommendations for Initial Antibiotic Therapy in Adults with Hospital-Acquired, Ventilator-Associated, and Healthcare-Associated Pneumonia [2]

Major Points and Recommendations for Initial Antibiotic Therapy

  • Choice of specific agents should be dictated by local microbiology, cost, availability, and formulary restrictions (Level II).
  • Patients with healthcare-related pneumonia should be treated for potentially drug-resistant organisms, regardless of when during the hospital stay the pneumonia begins (Level II)
  • Inappropriate therapy (failure of the etiologic pathogen to be sensitive to the administered antibiotic) is a major risk factor for excess mortality and length of stay for patients with HAP, and antibiotic-resistant organisms are the pathogens most commonly associated with inappropriate therapy (Level II)
  • In selecting empiric therapy for patients who have recently received an antibiotic, an effort should be made to use an agent from a different antibiotic class, because recent therapy increases the probability of inappropriate therapy and can predispose to resistance to that same class of antibiotics (Level III)
  • Initial antibiotic therapy should be given promptly because delays in administration may add to excess mortality resulting from VAP (Level II)
  • Initial empiric therapy is more likely to be appropriate if a protocol for antibiotic selection is developed on the basis of the recommendations in Tables 2–4, but adapted to local patterns of antibiotic resistance, with each ICU collecting this information and updating it on a regular basis (Level II)

For Level of evidence and classes click here.

Major Points and Recommendations for Selected MDR Pathogens

  • If Pseudomonas aeruginosa pneumonia is documented, combination therapy is recommended. The principal justification is the high frequency of development of resistance on monotherapy. Although combination therapy will not necessarily prevent the development of resistance, combination therapy is more likely to avoid inappropriate and ineffective treatment of patients (Level II).
  • If Acinetobacter species are documented to be present, the most active agents are the carbapenems, sulbactam, colistin, and polymyxin. There are no data documenting an improved outcome if these organisms are treated with a combination regimen (Level II).
  • Adjunctive therapy with an inhaled aminoglycoside or polymyxin for MDR gram-negative pneumonia should be considered, especially in patients who are not improving with systemic therapy (Level III). More studies of this type of therapy are needed.
  • Linezolid is an alternative to vancomycin for the treatment of MRSA VAP and may be preferred on the basis of a subset analysis of two prospective randomized trials (Level II). This agent may also be preferred if patients have renal insufficiency or are receiving other nephrotoxic agents, but more data are needed (Level III).
  • Antibiotic restriction can limit epidemics of infection with specific resistant pathogens. Heterogeneity of antibiotic prescriptions, including formal antibiotic cycling, may be able to reduce the overall frequency of antibiotic resistance. However, the long-term impact of this practice is unknown (Level II).

For Level of evidence and classes click here.


  1. Kalil AC, Metersky ML, Klompas M, Muscedere J, Sweeney DA, Palmer LB; et al. (2016). "Management of Adults With Hospital-acquired and Ventilator-associated Pneumonia: 2016 Clinical Practice Guidelines by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Thoracic Society". Clin Infect Dis. 63 (5): e61–e111. doi:10.1093/cid/ciw353. PMC 4981759. PMID 27418577.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 American Thoracic Society. Infectious Diseases Society of America (2005). "Guidelines for the management of adults with hospital-acquired, ventilator-associated, and healthcare-associated pneumonia". Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 171 (4): 388–416. doi:10.1164/rccm.200405-644ST. PMID 15699079.
  3. Haessler S, Lagu T, Lindenauer PK, Skiest DJ, Priya A, Pekow PS; et al. (2017). "Treatment Trends and Outcomes in Healthcare-Associated Pneumonia". J Hosp Med. 12 (11): 886–891. doi:10.12788/jhm.2877. PMID 29091975.
  4. Chen JI, Slater LN, Kurdgelashvili G, Husain KO, Gentry CA (2013). "Outcomes of health care-associated pneumonia empirically treated with guideline-concordant regimens versus community-acquired pneumonia guideline-concordant regimens for patients admitted to acute care wards from home". Ann Pharmacother. 47 (1): 9–19. doi:10.1345/aph.1R322. PMID 23324506.
  5. Webb BJ, Dangerfield BS, Pasha JS, Agrwal N, Vikram HR (2012). "Guideline-concordant antibiotic therapy and clinical outcomes in healthcare-associated pneumonia". Respir Med. 106 (11): 1606–12. doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2012.08.003. PMID 22917808.
  6. Grenier C, Pépin J, Nault V, Howson J, Fournier X, Poirier MS; et al. (2011). "Impact of guideline-consistent therapy on outcome of patients with healthcare-associated and community-acquired pneumonia". J Antimicrob Chemother. 66 (7): 1617–24. doi:10.1093/jac/dkr176. PMID 21586592.
  7. Attridge RT, Frei CR, Pugh MJ, Lawson KA, Ryan L, Anzueto A; et al. (2016). "Health care-associated pneumonia in the intensive care unit: Guideline-concordant antibiotics and outcomes". J Crit Care. 36: 265–271. doi:10.1016/j.jcrc.2016.08.004. PMC 5096991. PMID 27595461.
  8. Liu C, Bayer A, Cosgrove SE, Daum RS, Fridkin SK, Gorwitz RJ, Kaplan SL, Karchmer AW, Levine DP, Murray BE, J Rybak M, Talan DA, Chambers HF (2011). "Clinical practice guidelines by the infectious diseases society of america for the treatment of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in adults and children". Clinical Infectious Diseases : an Official Publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 52 (3): e18–55. doi:10.1093/cid/ciq146. PMID 21208910. Retrieved 2012-09-11. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  9. Rybak MJ, Lomaestro BM, Rotschafer JC, Moellering RC, Craig WA, Billeter M, Dalovisio JR, Levine DP (2009). "Vancomycin therapeutic guidelines: a summary of consensus recommendations from the infectious diseases Society of America, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists". Clinical Infectious Diseases : an Official Publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 49 (3): 325–7. doi:10.1086/600877. PMID 19569969. Retrieved 2012-09-11. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  10. Wunderink RG, Niederman MS, Kollef MH, Shorr AF, Kunkel MJ, Baruch A, McGee WT, Reisman A, Chastre J (2012). "Linezolid in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nosocomial pneumonia: a randomized, controlled study". Clinical Infectious Diseases : an Official Publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 54 (5): 621–9. doi:10.1093/cid/cir895. PMID 22247123. Retrieved 2012-09-11. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)

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