Causes of death for patients with community-acquired pneumonia: results from the Pneumonia Patient Outcomes Research Team cohort study

Arch Intern Med. 2002 May 13;162(9):1059-64. doi: 10.1001/archinte.162.9.1059.


Background: To our knowledge, no previous study has systematically examined pneumonia-related and pneumonia-unrelated mortality. This study was performed to identify the cause(s) of death and to compare the timing and risk factors associated with pneumonia-related and pneumonia-unrelated mortality.

Methods: For all deaths within 90 days of presentation, a synopsis of all events preceding death was independently reviewed by 2 members of a 5-member review panel (C.M.C., D.E.S., T.J.M., W.N.K., and M.J.F.). The underlying and immediate causes of death and whether pneumonia had a major, a minor, or no apparent role in the death were determined using consensus. Death was defined as pneumonia related if pneumonia was the underlying or immediate cause of death or played a major role in the cause of death. Competing-risk Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to identify baseline characteristics associated with mortality.

Results: Patients (944 outpatients and 1343 inpatients) with clinical and radiographic evidence of pneumonia were enrolled, and 208 (9%) died by 90 days. The most frequent immediate causes of death were respiratory failure (38%), cardiac conditions (13%), and infectious conditions (11%); the most frequent underlying causes of death were neurological conditions (29%), malignancies (24%), and cardiac conditions (14%). Mortality was pneumonia related in 110 (53%) of the 208 deaths. Pneumonia-related deaths were 7.7 times more likely to occur within 30 days of presentation compared with pneumonia-unrelated deaths. Factors independently associated with pneumonia-related mortality were hypothermia, altered mental status, elevated serum urea nitrogen level, chronic liver disease, leukopenia, and hypoxemia. Factors independently associated with pneumonia-unrelated mortality were dementia, immunosuppression, active cancer, systolic hypotension, male sex, and multilobar pulmonary infiltrates. Increasing age and evidence of aspiration were independent predictors of both types of mortality.

Conclusions: For patients with community-acquired pneumonia, only half of all deaths are attributable to their acute illness. Differences in the timing of death and risk factors for mortality suggest that future studies of community-acquired pneumonia should differentiate all-cause and pneumonia-related mortality.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors