Pneumonia in residents of long-term care facilities: epidemiology, etiology, management, and prevention

Am J Med. 1998 Oct;105(4):319-30. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(98)00262-9.


Pneumonia is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among patients in long-term care facilities; the median reported incidence is 1 per 1,000 patient-days. Risk factors include functional dependency, chronic pulmonary disease, and conditions causing aspiration. The frequency of etiologic agents varies widely among reports; for example; Streptococcus pneumoniae ranges from 0% to 39% of cases, and gram negative bacilli ranges from 0% to 51% of reported cases. Viral respiratory infections, particularly influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, typically occur in outbreaks. Mortality varies from 5% to 40%; functional status is the major determinant of survival. Many patients receive inadequate initial evaluations, and as many as 40% receive no physician visit during the episode. Although transfer to an acute care facility occurs in 9% to 51% of cases, most transferred patients could be managed in the nursing home with minimal additional support. Appropriate evaluation includes examination by a practitioner, recording of vital signs, chest radiograph, and examination of an adequate sputum sample, if available. Patients without contraindications to oral therapy or severe abnormalities of vital signs (pulse > 120 beats per minute, respirations >30 per minute, systolic blood pressure < 90) may initially receive oral therapy. Appropriate oral agents include amoxicillin/clavulanate, second generation cephalosporins, quinolones active against S pneumoniae, or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. Appropriate parenteral agents include beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitor combinations, second or third generation cephalosporins, or quinolones. Pneumococcal and influenza vaccines should be administered to all residents. Future studies should focus on identifying risk factors for pneumonia that are amenable to intervention and to identifying highly effective, preferably oral, antimicrobial regimens in randomized trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection*
  • Decision Trees
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Nursing Homes* / statistics & numerical data
  • Pneumonia* / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia* / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia* / microbiology
  • Pneumonia* / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia* / therapy
  • Risk Factors