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Bacterial Pneumonia

What Every COPD Patient Needs to Know About Bacterial Pneumonia


Updated July 02, 2014

It is estimated that more than 3 million cases of bacterial pneumonia occur each year in the United States alone. When treated, it is highly curable. If left untreated, however, it has a mortality rate of about 30 percent.

In patients who are diagnosed with a lung disease like COPD, contracting bacterial pneumonia can cause a downward spiral of repeated lung infections and a further decline of lung function. So, why does bacterial pneumonia take such a toll on people who have COPD? Let's take a look.

Causes of Bacterial Pneumonia

Pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common form of bacterial pneumonia.

In most cases, bacteria from the upper airways finds its way into the lungs. Once there, the infection is influenced by a number of factors - the overall health of the patient, the status of the patient's immune system and the virulence (toxicity) of the bacteria.

If a patient has a weak immune system, such as someone with a chronic disease like COPD, they are at greater risk for developing bacterial pneumonia because they lack the necessary defense mechanisms to protect themselves.

Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia

  • Sudden onset of chills
  • Rapidly rising fever - 101 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Stabbing chest pain aggravated by breathing and coughing
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea) - 25 to 45 breaths per minute
  • Respiratory grunting (grunting sounds made during breathing)
  • Nasal flaring
  • Use of accessory muscles for breathing (muscles other than the diaphragm and intercostals (muscles between the ribs).

Diagnosing Bacterial Pneumonia

The following tests may be ordered by your doctor to help her determine the presence of bacterial pneumonia:

Treatment of Bacterial Pneumonia

The gold standard of treatment for bacterial pneumonia is antibiotic therapy. Common antibiotics used to treat bacterial pneumonia include:

  • Avelox
  • Zithromax
  • Erythromycin
  • Augmentin
  • Vancomycin
  • Rochephin
  • Levaquin
  • Ceftazidime
  • Zyvox

Prevention of Bacterial Pneumonia

The following prevention tips will help you stay healthy and prevent COPD exacerbation:

Prognosis of Bacterial Pneumonia

While the prognosis of bacterial pneumonia is generally good in otherwise healthy patients, the following factors, alone, or in combination, can increase morbidity and mortality:

If you have been diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia during an inpatient hospital admission, it is recommended that you follow-up with a chest X-ray about six weeks after your discharge from the hospital.


Smeltzer, Suzanne C. & Bare, Brenda G. Brunner and Suddarth's Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing. Eighth edition. Lippincott-Raven Publishers. Philadelphia, P.A. 1996.

Stephen, James, MD, FAAEM, FACEP. Pneumonia, Bacterial. Medscape. Updated October 15, 2008. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/807707-overview.

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