UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: Aspiration pneumonitis

Keywords: aspiration pneumonitis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/4/2008 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 10/24/2020)
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Aspiration Pneumonitis

  • Aspiration pneumonitis is an acute lung injury resulting from the aspiration of gastric contents
  • It is an inflammatory condition rather than infectious
  • Despite the inflammation, corticosteroids have been shown to have no effect on mortality
  • Aspiration pneumonitis is self limited
  • Antibiotics are generally held for 24 to 48 hours
  • When to consider empiric broad spectrum antibiotics in the ED:  Gastric contents are sterile in most patients.  Patients who may have colonization/contamination of gastric contents are more likely to progress from pneumonitis to pneumonia.  Consider empiric antibiotics for aspiration pneumonitis in the patient with SBO, gastroparesis, those receiving enteral feeds through a G- or J-tube, and those on chronic PPI's/antacids.