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What is Necrotizing Pneumonia?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Necrotizing pneumonia is a serious medical condition that may occur when an individual aspirates, or inhales, extraneous material into his or her lungs. Treatment for this potentially life-threatening condition generally involves the administration of antibiotics and may require hospitalization, depending on symptom severity. Individuals who develop this condition should seek immediate medical treatment to prevent the development of complications that may include acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and shock.

The introduction of an extraneous substance into the lungs can cause delicate lung tissue to become inflamed and irritated, especially bronchial tissue. If the aspirated matter, either liquid or solid in composition, contains bacteria, its presence may trigger an immune response inducing inflammation and the formation of pus in the affected lung tissue. Additionally, the presence of bacteria-laden, extraneous substances may cause infection within the lung tissue, which may contribute to abscess formation. When left untreated, a lung abscess can cause permanent tissue damage that compromises lung functionality and, ultimately, may lead to the death of affected tissues, a condition known as necrosis.

Commonly known as aspiration pneumonia, this condition may develop in the presence of a variety of medical conditions and circumstances. Individuals with conditions that adversely affect their ability to swallow properly, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), may be at an increased risk for aspiration pneumonia. Medical situations that impair one’s consciousness, such as coma or the use of anesthesia, may also contribute to the accidental inhalation of liquid material, such as saliva or mucus, resulting in lung inflammation. The use of certain medications, like tranquilizers, and risky behaviors, such as excessive alcohol consumption or recreational drug use, may create circumstances that can contribute to the development of necrotizing pneumonia.

Individuals who develop this condition may exhibit a variety of signs or symptoms. Chest pain, persistent coughing, and shortness of breath are generally associated with this form of lung inflammation. Those who develop aspiration pneumonia may experience pronounced fatigue and their skin may acquire a bluish hue due to oxygen deprivation, a condition known as cyanosis. Some individuals may expel mucus containing pus or blood when they cough or their sputum may be green in color. Additional signs of necrotizing pneumonia can include profuse sweating, impaired respiration, and fever.

To confirm the presence of this type of pneumonia, a variety of diagnostic tests may be conducted. Following an initial consultation and physical examination, an individual may be referred for additional imaging testing that may include a computerized tomography (CT) scan and chest X-ray. Blood tests and cultures of the blood and sputum may also be performed to check for markers indicative of the presence of bacteria and infection. Additional tests may be recommended to evaluate the physical condition of the lungs, including the use of bronchoscopy.

Treatment for necrotizing pneumonia generally involves the administration of antibiotic medication to eliminate the presence of infection. Individuals experiencing severe symptoms may require hospitalization to stabilize their condition. Prognosis associated with this condition is dependent on timely, appropriate treatment, as well as the type, severity, and extent of symptoms the individual is experiencing. The overall health of the individual may also play a critical role in his or her recovery. Complications associated with necrotizing pneumonia can include acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), blood poisoning, and shock.

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Discussion Comments

By anon990155 — On Apr 08, 2015

My uncle has just been diagnosed with necrotizing pneumonia. Is this contagious?

By anon990119 — On Apr 07, 2015

My husband became sick in mid-December. His condition became quite severe so I called his doctor. He was told they believed he had COPD or pneumonia.

He was given Symbicort and other antibiotics. His condition became very bad. He was told in January he had necrotizing pneumonia. He missed the last four months of work and still remains on a picc line with IV antibiotics, 24 -7.

I think they need to take a better look into this drug.

By Ceptorbi — On Jan 11, 2014

How can you tell if you've got bronchitis or pneumonia? Are the symptoms the same?

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