Though statistics on aspiration pneumonia are hard to obtain, trends show that as a bronchopneumonic condition it is more prevalent among young males and children than in women. However, the mortality rate associated with this infection is about 1% in outpatient department and 25% in those hospitalised. An extremely high 70% mortality rate is seen in those admitted due to chemical pneumonitis.
The diagnosis for aspiration pneumonia is done by running a number of conclusive tests such as test for measuring the arterial blood gas (specifically the level of oxygen), a blood culture that will require 72 hours to conclude, a blood count test checking for leucocytosis and neutriphils, a sputum culture from the pharynx. Additional tests such as a renal function test, tests for electrolyte imbalance and dehydration are also done to get a more complete picture. However, the best conclusive results are got from performing a bronchoscopy, a chest x-ray or CT scan of the chest. The most common affected area is the middle of the right and lower lobes where infection spots can easily be seen in any x-ray.
Though treatment depends upon the complications (lung abscess, shock, bacteremia, Low BP, acute respiratory distress etc), type of bacteria involved and severity of the pneumonia, antibiotics are usually given to tackle the situation as quickly as possible. The usual chemicals are amoxicillin – clavulanate combinations, clindamycin, ampicillin and imipenem. A specific antibiotic program is prescribed after receiving the culture reports until which time the doctor usually starts the patient on some empirical antibiotic.
Sometimes physical removal of swallowed particle is undertaken in severe cases through bronchoscopy or tracheal suction. In some cases CPAP intubation is also done.
Post treatment, certain lifestyle changes are recommended for those who suffer from a poor gag reflex. They are advised nasogastric feeding for a few months after recovery to avoid re-aspiration.