Management of pneumonia in critically ill patients

BMJ. 2021 Dec 6:375:e065871. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2021-065871.


Severe pneumonia is associated with high mortality (short and long term), as well as pulmonary and extrapulmonary complications. Appropriate diagnosis and early initiation of adequate antimicrobial treatment for severe pneumonia are crucial in improving survival among critically ill patients. Identifying the underlying causative pathogen is also critical for antimicrobial stewardship. However, establishing an etiological diagnosis is challenging in most patients, especially in those with chronic underlying disease; those who received previous antibiotic treatment; and those treated with mechanical ventilation. Furthermore, as antimicrobial therapy must be empiric, national and international guidelines recommend initial antimicrobial treatment according to the location's epidemiology; for patients admitted to the intensive care unit, specific recommendations on disease management are available. Adherence to pneumonia guidelines is associated with better outcomes in severe pneumonia. Yet, the continuing and necessary research on severe pneumonia is expansive, inviting different perspectives on host immunological responses, assessment of illness severity, microbial causes, risk factors for multidrug resistant pathogens, diagnostic tests, and therapeutic options.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship / standards*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Care / standards
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / standards
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia / microbiology
  • Pneumonia / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Infective Agents