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Lobar pneumonia is a form of infection of the lung that involves a contiguous inflammation across one of the lobes of the lung. It usually onsets very suddenly and can have serious complications if it is not treated, including permanent damage to the structures in the lung, leading to a lifetime of breathing problems. Treatment involves the administration of aggressive antibiotics to kill the causative organisms, along with supportive care while the antibiotics have time to work and throughout the patient's recovery.
People commonly develop lobar pneumonia after an episode of cold or flu, when bacterial organisms have a chance to get into the airways. They travel into the lungs and take advantage of the patient's weakened immune system to colonize one of the lobes, causing inflammation. It can spread quickly, filling the tiny air sacs in the lungs with fluid and making it hard to breathe. The patient develops congestion and may cough and experience a fever.
If X-rays of the chest are taken, an obstructed area in the involved lobe can be seen. This allows a doctor to determine the extent of the infection. A culture can be taken of the material in the lung to see what kind of bacteria is responsible so antibiotic therapy can be tailored to the infection. The doctor may recommend broad spectrum antibiotics before the culture results come back in the interests of treating the infection as quickly as possible and preventing it from spreading to the rest of the lung.
Hospitalization may be required for lobar pneumonia in some cases. Some patients develop congestion so severe that they have difficulty breathing and require supportive care such as mechanical ventilation and intravenous antibiotics delivered in a hospital setting. Complications can be a concern with patients who have a prior history of respiratory disorders and patients with compromised immune systems who are less able to fight aggressive infections.
After a patient has recovered from lobar pneumonia, it is common to experience some difficulty breathing during recovery. Sometimes a respiratory therapist can help patients with a regimen designed to help them recover elasticity and strength in their lungs. Doctors may also prescribe medications to open the airways and reduce inflammation while the patient recovers from the pneumonia. It is important to be alert to early signs of recurrence so appropriate action can be taken to treat returning lobar pneumonia infections before they have an opportunity to compromise the patient's lungs.