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Post-operative pneumonia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About post-operative pneumonia

Post operative pneumonia is a common complication which may occur after any surgery. It is an important entity and may not only lead to prolongation of hospital stay, but also have significant mortality implications.

Post-operative pneumonia: Incidence, age and sex

Post-operative pneumonia occurs most commonly after major abdominal surgeries. It can occur at any age, but occurs most commonly in elderly.

Signs and symptoms of post-operative pneumonia: Diagnosis

Post-operative pneumonia can occur any time after surgery. It may present with shortness of breath, cough, chest pain and fever. The patient may be unable to maintain oxygen saturation at room air and may require supplemental oxygen. In severe cases, there may be alteration of the level of consciousness.

The diagnosis is usually easily made by an X-ray of the chest. On blood tests, there may be an elevation of white cell count. Cultures of sputum and blood are done in order to identify the responsible bacteria and determine their sensitivities to various antibiotics.

Causes and prevention of post-operative pneumonia

Post-operative pneumonia occurs as there is stasis of respiratory secretions due to impaired cough reflex. It can be prevented by good chest physiotherapy including deep breathing, use of incentive spirometer and maintaining good oral hygiene, both before and after surgery.

Post-operative pneumonia: Complications

Post operative pneumonia prolongs hospital stay after surgery. The patient may develop respiratory failure. Infection can spread to the bloodstream causing septicemia and dysfunction of various vital organs.

Post-operative pneumonia: Treatment

Post operative pneumonia is treated with appropriate antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics is empirical initially and later, it is guided by the reports of sputum cultures. Supplemental oxygen is required, if the patient is unable to maintain oxygen saturation on room air. In cases of severe respiratory distress and respiratory failure, patient may require mechanical ventilation. Chest physiotherapy and removal of respiratory secretions is of crucial importance for speedy recovery.