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HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Pneumonia is a condition of the lungs that is caused by an infection from bacteria, viruses or fungi. It is an extremely common disorder that has a fairly good survival rate if treated promptly with the right medications. Pneumonia is divided into community-acquired pneumonia, which is relatively easy to heal, and hospital or nursing home-acquired pneumonia, which is harder to treat because the organisms causing the pneumonia tend to be more resistant to the usual antibiotic medications. Millions of people suffer from pneumonia each year and most are treated successfully.

Pneumonia is caused by bacteria or viruses harbouring in the nose that travel to the lungs and begin to multiply in the lung tissue. You can also get pneumonia from breathing in bacteria, viruses or fungi from the surrounding air. Aspiration pneumonia is a case of pneumonia in which bacteria are inhaled from vomit, liquids or foods that go "down the wrong tube" and get into the lungs instead of the oesophagus.

Bacterial pneumonia tends to be the most severe type of pneumonia. The most common cause of this type of pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae. This can be prevented through an immunization against pneumonia. Other types of pneumonia include Mycoplasma pneumonia, also called atypical pneumonia. Legionella can cause pneumonia in rare cases. Pneumocystis pneumonia is common in those who are severely immunosuppressed, such as AIDS patients. Staph aureus, Hemophilus influenzae and Neisseria can cause pneumonia in some cases. People with a poor immune system can get pneumonia from tuberculosis.

There are people who have a greater risk of getting pneumonia. Common risk factors include having cerebral palsy, chronic lung diseases, difficulty swallowing, smoking history, immunosuppression, impaired consciousness, other significant diseases, recent surgery, recent trauma, live in a nursing home, and having a viral infection of the lungs or bronchial tree.

The major symptoms of pneumonia include a harsh cough, fever of any degree, shaking chills and problems with shortness of breath. In some cases, there may be confusion, excessive sweating, fatigue, lack of appetite and headache. Some patients have pleuritic (sharp) chest pain if the pneumonia is near the lining of the lung.

Doctors can test for pneumonia by doing a chest x-ray, which will show white areas in the lung. A CT scan or MRI scan of the lungs will show consolidation or filled up areas of the lungs that contain the infection. Crackling can be heard on auscultation of the lungs. Sputum can be sent for culture and sensitivities to show what kind of pneumonia it is and what is the best treatment for the disease. Arterial blood gases can show a low oxygen level and pH changes in the lungs. A CBC of the blood can show an elevated white blood cell count. If there is pleural fluid around the lungs, it can be cultured for bacteria or fungi.

Treatment for pneumonia first rests on the decision to put you in the hospital or to treat you as an outpatient. IV antibiotic are used if you are to be hospitalized. You are more likely to be hospitalized if you have another medical condition which can impact your healing, if your symptoms are significant, if you can't eat or drink and can't care for yourself at home, if you are a child or someone older than 65 or if you have failed a trial of trying to get better at home.

Oral antibiotics for pneumonia include the quinolone antibiotics, the erythromycin-based antibiotics such as Zithromax, or cephalosporin antibiotics. Penicillin-based antibiotics might work but there is a high incidence of resistance to these antibiotics.

Viral pneumonia can be treated with antiviral medication, especially if treated promptly. Anti-tuberculosis drugs are used in cases of tubercular pneumonia. Anti-fungal medication is used to treat fungal pneumonia. Other treatment measures include fever reducing medication, pain medication and cough medication. You need to get plenty of fluids in IV or oral form. Rest is important to healing from pneumonia.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Pneumonia solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Pneumonia solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here