Time course of symptom resolution in patients with community-acquired pneumonia

Respir Med. 1998 Sep;92(9):1137-42. doi: 10.1016/s0954-6111(98)90408-5.


The majority of patients with community-acquired pneumonia are at low risk for short-term mortality or serious morbidity and are increasingly managed in the outpatient setting. Efforts to improve the quality of care for these patients will need to measure patient outcomes such as disease-specific symptom resolution. The aims of this study were to (1) develop a self-administered daily version of a symptom questionnaire for patients with pneumonia, (2) measure the reliability of this instrument, and (3) provide estimates for recovery rates based on symptom resolution in a cohort of low-risk patients with community-acquired pneumonia. This study was conducted as part of a prospective study of a new emergency department protocol for pneumonia at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Eligible study subjects included all adult patients with pneumonia presenting to the emergency department with a predicted low risk of short-term mortality. The main outcome measures were based on a new five item symptom questionnaire which rates the severity of cough, fatigue, dyspnea, myalgia, and fever. The questionnaires were self-administered on days 0-7, 14, 21 and 28 from the time of diagnosis of pneumonia. The symptom questions were also administered during patient interviews on days 0, 7, 14 and 28 in order to assess the questionnaire's reliability. Of the 166 eligible patients, 134 (81%) consented to participate in this study. The mean intra-class reliability coefficient of the symptom questionnaire was 0.75. The median times to resolution of individual symptoms ranged from 3 days for fever to 14 days for cough and fatigue. Thirty-five percent of patients had at least one symptom still present at the end of the 28-day study period. We found that a daily self-report questionnaire is a reliable measure of symptom resolution for patients with pneumonia. Full resolution of symptoms takes more than 28 days for a significant proportion of patients with pneumonia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Community-Acquired Infections / complications
  • Community-Acquired Infections / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Pneumonia / complications*
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self Care
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors