Aspiration pneumonitis is caused by foreign material which is being introduced into the lower respiratory tract. In an unconscious person where protective reflexes are not intact, stomach acids and contents can go into the lung and cause an inflammatory process.
Symptoms vary according to the amount and type of material aspirated. Aspiration of acids from the stomach can cause severe pneumonia causing respiratory failure and leading to the need for assisted ventilation. Sudden onset of fever, bluish discoloration and difficulty breathing in an unconscious patient may suggest aspiration. In older patients there may be history of vomiting and coughing while eating before the onset of symptoms.
1) Suspicious history- unconscious patient, history of alcohol abuse, elderly, and history of stroke
2) Upon asculation- the physician may find rales
3) X-ray may show Pneumonia. Site of the pneumonia may depend on the position the patient was in during the incident. Usually lower lobes are affected.
These patients need hospitalization and supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation may be need. Antibiotics are used to treat infections, and bronchodilators are used to treat symptoms and supportive intravenous fluids may also be given.
1) Lung Abscess
2) Respiratory Failure