Community-acquired pneumonia in the elderly

Clin Infect Dis. 2000 Oct;31(4):1066-78. doi: 10.1086/318124. Epub 2000 Oct 20.


Pneumonia in the elderly is a common and serious problem with a clinical presentation that can differ from that in younger patients. Older patients with pneumonia complain of significantly fewer symptoms than do younger patients, and delirium commonly occurs. Indeed, delirium may be the only manifestation of pneumonia in this group of patients. Alcoholism, asthma, immunosuppression, and age >70 years are risk factors for community-acquired pneumonia in the elderly. Among nursing home residents, the following are risk factors for pneumonia: advanced age, male sex, difficulty in swallowing, inability to take oral medications, profound disability, bedridden state, and urinary incontinence. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of pneumonia among the elderly. Aspiration pneumonia is underdiagnosed in this group of patients, and tuberculosis always should be considered. In this population an etiologic diagnosis is rarely available when antimicrobial therapy must be instituted. Use of the guidelines for treatment of pneumonia issued by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, with modification for treatment in the nursing home setting, is recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / diagnosis
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / etiology
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / therapy
  • Critical Care
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Pneumonia* / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia* / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia* / etiology
  • Pneumonia, Pneumococcal / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia, Pneumococcal / etiology
  • Pneumonia, Pneumococcal / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents