Aims: To correlate microbial findings obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage in pneumonia patients with the clinical situation of the oral cavity.
Method: Quantitative aerobic and anaerobic cultures were carried out in 150 ml samples of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) obtained by means of an endoscope (Video Endoscope Pentax) inserted per os in the infected bronchus.
Material: Twenty consecutive patients with a tentative clinical diagnosis of bronchopneumonia in whom BAL was carried out for diagnostic purposes. A clinical evaluation of the oral health status (oral hygiene, caries, periodontal diseases) was subsequently carried out.
Results: In seven edentulous subjects wearing complete dentures the culture of anaerobic microorganisms was negative or yielding less than 100 cfu/ml BAL. Two patients yielded high counts of S. aureus and one high counts of P. aeruginosa. In the 13 subjects with natural teeth left one showed high counts of Veillonella spp. (anaerobic) + P. aeruginosa, one high counts of Veillonella spp. + S. aureus, one high counts of P. aeruginosa + S. aureus and one high counts of E. coli. These four subjects showed poor oral hygiene, periodontal pockets and a BAL microflora consistent with periodontal pathology.
Conclusion: The results of this pilot study suggest that microorganisms of denture plaque or associated with periodontal diseases may give rise to aspiration pneumonia in susceptible individuals.