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A paradigm shift in the diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia in older adults

A paradigm shift in the diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia in older adults

Yoshimatsu, Yuki ORCID: 0000-0003-0913-3507 and Smithard, David G. ORCID: 0000-0001-6863-3099 (2022) A paradigm shift in the diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia in older adults. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11 (17):5214. ISSN 2077-0383 (Online) (doi:

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In older adults, community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is often aspiration-related. However, as aspiration pneumonia (AP) lacks clear diagnostic criteria, the reported prevalence and clinical management vary greatly. We investigated what clinical factors appeared to influence the diagnosis of AP and non-AP in a clinical setting and reconsidered a more clinically relevant approach. Medical records of patients aged ≥75 years admitted with CAP were reviewed retrospectively. A total of 803 patients (134 APs and 669 non-APs) were included. The AP group had significantly higher rates of frailty, had higher SARC-F scores, resided in institutions, had neurologic conditions, previous pneumonia diagnoses, known dysphagia, and were more likely to present with vomiting or coughing on food. Nil by mouth orders, speech therapist referrals, and broad-spectrum antibiotics were significantly more common, while computed tomography scans and blood cultures were rarely performed; alternative diagnoses, such as cancer and pulmonary embolism, were detected significantly less. AP is diagnosed more commonly in frail patients, while aspiration is the underlying aetiology in most types of pneumonia. A presumptive diagnosis of AP may deny patients necessary investigation and management. We suggest a paradigm shift in the way we approach older patients with CAP; rather than trying to differentiate AP and non-AP, it would be more clinically relevant to recognise all pneumonia as just pneumonia, and assess their swallowing functions, causative organisms, and investigate alternative diagnoses or underlying causes of dysphagia. This will enable appropriate clinical management.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in Pneumonia in Older People.
Uncontrolled Keywords: aspiration pneumonia; dysphagia; swallowing disorder; aspiration; diagnosis; differential; community-acquired pneumonia; CAP; frailty
Subjects: R Medicine > RB Pathology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2022 12:00

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