Pneumonia is an inflammatory disease that occurs in the air sacs of the lungs. It is caused by a variety of infectious microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mycoplasmas.
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The most predominant symptom of pneumonia is a deep cough, which may produce mucus that is yellow or green in color and may be tinged with blood. Other symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain, fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, and sometimes delirium or confusion.
In most cases, pneumonia is highly treatable; However, people with pneumonia-like symptoms should see a doctor, as untreated pneumonia can develop into a serious illness. In order to diagnose pneumonia, a doctor will perform a series of tests.
These tests look at the efficiency of the delivery of oxygen to the body and try to determine the infectious agent, which is necessary to determine what treatment specific to the agent will be prescribed. In addition to these tests, imaging also plays a vital role in making a diagnosis.
How is pneumonia detected?
A visit to the doctor will always begin with a complete physical exam and medical history. During the examination, the doctor will carry out an initial assessment of the respiratory quality using a stethoscope.
A patient with pneumonia may experience wheezing, bubbles, or crackles when breathing. These sounds are formed when air tries to pass through and over pulmonary secretions.
How is pneumonia diagnosed?
If the quality of breathing, as detected by the stethoscope, indicates an infection, a doctor will usually order one or more imaging tests to visualize the interior of the lung. These are done in order to identify areas of infection and assess the overall severity of the disease.
Most patients will need to have a chest x-ray first. However, in severe cases or in patients for whom the initial treatment methods do not produce positive results, a computed tomography (CT) scan may be performed, which generates more detailed diagnostic imaging.
An alternative technique, used in particular in hospitalized patients and / or unresponsive to antibiotics, is bronchoscopy. This is a procedure used to visualize the airways. It involves inserting a tube containing a camera into the airways and lungs where inflamed tissue can be seen.
Other tests involved in the diagnosis of pneumonia
Respiration, which is the exchange of gases, is the primary function of the lungs. In this process, oxygen is received from the air we breathe to oxygenate our blood, while carbon dioxide, which is a waste gas produced by metabolism, is removed.
Pneumonia has a negative impact on this exchange process, as the accumulation of mucous secretions interferes with adequate oxygenation of the blood. To assess whether the lungs are functioning at optimal levels for their gas exchange, an arterial blood gas (ABG) test may be done.
An ABG is a blood test where blood is taken from an artery as opposed to a vein. The most commonly used artery is the radial artery, however, other arteries can be used as needed.
ABG gives a very precise clinical representation of the patient’s respiratory status. Unlike ABG, pulse oximetry can also be performed and although it is less invasive and painless, it is not as accurate as ABG. Pulse oximetry involves the use of a small device that can be attached to the finger to estimate the levels of oxygen in the blood.
How is the causative agent identified?
Since pneumonia can be caused by any of 30 different microorganisms, it is important to identify the underlying cause of each patient’s pneumonia, if possible. It is important to distinguish the causative agent to guide subsequent treatment decisions. For example, pneumonia of bacterial origin can be treated with antibiotics, while pneumonia of fungal origin should be treated with antimycotics.
The test can be done in several ways, including a sputum test (mucus-based secretion from a deep cough), a blood test, or a pleural fluid test (fluid around the lining of the lungs and in the lungs). chest cavity). In each test, the substance or fluid is examined under a microscope and / or cultured to identify the causative organisms.