Aspiration Pneumonia

Definition

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is an infection that develops after foreign items are accidentally inhaled into the lungs. This is a potentially serious condition that requires care from your doctor.
Food Inhaled into Lung
lung aspiration food
Food has entered air sacs of the lung causing a build up of green mucus and decreasing the flow of oxygen—blue arrows.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Only air should enter the airways of the lungs. Sometimes foods, liquids, or vomited stomach contents may accidentally get into these airways. Inhaling can move these substances further into the lungs. This is called aspiration. Once the substances are in the lungs, it will cause an irritation and swelling in the lungs. This creates an opportunity for an infection to develop.Most people can prevent aspiration by creating a strong cough. However, some people may have impaired coughing ability. This may happen in people who are unconscious, have brain injuries or have trouble swallowing foods or liquids.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of aspiration pneumonia include:

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