Aspiration pneumonia is a type of bronchopneumonia that develops when the foreign objects and particles enter the bronchial tree. Bronchopneumonia is a type of acute inflammation of the walls of the bronchioles, small delicate airway branches that carry the air to the lungs. Particles responsible for this inflammation are usually presented as oral or gastric contents: saliva, food, nasal secretions and similar. The aspiration of various particles occurs normally in healthy individuals, but the body’s normal defense mechanisms remove the material without any side effect. However, under certain circumstances aspiration pneumonia occurs as an effect of the chemical irritation to the lungs causing different symptoms and complications.
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia
Signs and symptoms of aspiration pneumonia usually include common symptoms of other respiratory diseases. Patients will normally develop cough, low level fever, and they may be coughing up sputum. Pleuretic chest pain accompanied with tachycardia, tachypnoea, and decreased breath sounds are very common symptoms. The accurate diagnosis is usually established by the radiograph imaging. However, the sputum culture will reveal if the disease is caused by bacteria or not. In mild cases patients may not even notice any kind of symptoms. Serious manifestations of the disease may even lead to death in 30 to 50 percent of all cases, due to the hypoxia and septic shock. Hypoxia is a medical condition in which the body or a part of the body is deprived of normal oxygen supply. Septic shock occurs as a result of infection and sepsis. This condition is also characterized by decreased tissue perfusion and oxygen delivery.
Causes of aspiration pneumonia
In most of the cases, aspiration pneumonia develops in association with incompetent swallowing mechanism. This is, for example, very common in patients with various neurological diseases, paralysis, or while a person is intoxicated. To prevent aspiration pneumonia, patients are always advised not to take any food by mouth at least for hours before the surgery. Chemical inflammatory process and bacterial infection cause similar symptoms. Bacterial inflammation is usually caused by various bacteria of the anaerobic oral flora: bacteroides, prevotella, fusobacterium, peptostreptococcum, or others like streptococcus pneumoniae, staphylococcus aureus, haemophilus influenzae, pseudomonas aeruginosa, etc.
Risk factors for aspiration pneumonia
In most of the cases, the infection is associated with impaired consciousness due to the various acute conditions such as drug or alcohol abuse, general anesthesia, seizures, sedation, acute stroke, central nervous system lesions, or head injury. Swallowing disorders like: oesophageal stricture, dysphagia, stroke, bulbar palsy, pharyngeal disease, or neuromuscular disorders, such as MS, also account for significant risk factors.