Definition

Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is an infection of the lungs that affects people who are on a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine that helps you breathe. Pneumonia affects the small airways and air sacs in the lungs.

Alveoli

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Causes

VAP is commonly caused by specific bacteria. The tube that goes into the lungs makes it easier for bacteria to enter deep into the lungs.

Risk

Factors that may increase your chance of developing VAP include:

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Conditions that affect the nervous system
  • Weakened immune system
  • Prolonged antibiotic use
  • Repeated intubation
  • Tube placed through a stoma (hole in the throat) rather than down through the nose or mouth
  • Prolonged ventilation
  • Continuous sedation
  • Prolonged period of lying on back
  • Malnutrition
  • Older age

Symptoms

VAP may cause:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Thick mucus, greenish mucus, or pus-like phlegm
  • Bluish color of nails or lips
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosis

Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests, which may include arterial blood gases to measure oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid in the blood
  • Blood cultures
  • Cultures from below the chest tube
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan

Treatment

Treatment depends on which germs are causing the pneumonia. Your doctor will discuss the best treatment plan with you. Treatment options include:

  • IV antibiotics
  • Oxygen therapy to increase the level of oxygen in your body
  • Chest physical therapy to loosen and remove thick mucus from the lungs

Prevention

To reduce your chance of VAP, the hospital staff will:

  • Elevate the head of your bed 30°-45°
  • Wash their hands before and after touching you or the ventilator
  • Clean the inside of your mouth on a regular basis
  • Keep you on the ventilator only if it is necessary
  • Avoid overly sedating you
  • Regularly suction your airway