Radiology of bacterial pneumonia

Eur J Radiol. 2004 Aug;51(2):102-13. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2004.03.010.


Bacterial pneumonia is commonly encountered in clinical practice. Radiology plays a prominent role in the evaluation of pneumonia. Chest radiography is the most commonly used imaging tool in pneumonias due to its availability and excellent cost benefit ratio. CT should be used in unresolved cases or when complications of pneumonia are suspected. The main applications of radiology in pneumonia are oriented to detection, characterisation and follow-up, especially regarding complications. The classical classification of pneumonias into lobar and bronchial pneumonia has been abandoned for a more clinical classification. Thus, bacterial pneumonias are typified into three main groups: Community acquired pneumonia (CAD), Aspiration pneumonia and Nosocomial pneumonia (NP).The usual pattern of CAD is that of the previously called lobar pneumonia; an air-space consolidation limited to one lobe or segment. Nevertheless, the radiographic patterns of CAD may be variable and are often related to the causative agent. Aspiration pneumonia generally involves the lower lobes with bilateral multicentric opacities. Nosocomial Pneumonia (NP) occurs in hospitalised patients. The importance of NP is related to its high mortality and, thus, the need to obtain a prompt diagnosis. The role of imaging in NP is limited but decisive. The most valuable information is when the chest radiographs are negative and rule out pneumonia. The radiographic patterns of NP are very variable, most commonly showing diffuse multifocal involvement and pleural effusion. Imaging plays also an important role in the detection and evaluation of complications of bacterial pneumonias. In many of these cases, especially in hospitalised patients, chest CT must be obtained in order to better depict these associate findings.

MeSH terms

  • Community-Acquired Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Community-Acquired Infections / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / diagnostic imaging
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / classification
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / complications
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed