American Review of Respiratory Disease

To provide a comprehensive description of the histologic and bacteriologic characteristics of human nosocomial bronchopneumonia (BPN), the lungs of 83 critically ill patients deceased after a period of mechanical ventilation were examined in the immediate postmortem period. In addition, the accuracy of the protected minibronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) technique in the diagnosis of nosocomial BPN was evaluated. In each patient, a surgical pneumonectomy was performed at the bedside within 30 min following death. Each pulmonary lobe was sampled and bacteriologically analyzed using semiquantitative cultures in 50 patients and quantitative cultures in 33 patients. The entire lung was histologically analyzed using 5 to 10 slices per lung segment. In 69 patients, the bacteriologic result of a protected mini-BAL performed within 48 h preceding death was compared with histologic and bacteriologic results of study of the lung tissue itself. Histologic lesions of BPN were found in 43 of the 83 lungs examined. These lesions were (1) severe in the majority of patients (confluent BPN, n = 23; lung abscess, n = 6), (2) preferentially found in dependent lung segments, (3) often associated with nonspecific alveolar damage, (4) associated with positive lung cultures in 65% of patients (53% with gram-negative bacteria), (5) polymicrobial in 28% of patients, (6) characterized by a lobar bacterial burden > 103 cfu/g in 32% of cases. Using semiquantitative bacteriologic analysis, the sensitivity and the specificity of the protected mini-BAL in the diagnosis of nosocomial BPN were found to be 70 and 69%, respectively. Protected mini-BAL identified 77% of causative microorganisms of BPN. These results, obtained in critically ill patients treated with intravenous antibiotics (39 patients among the 43 with BPN), outline the complexity of the bacterial process of human nosocomial BPN and show that a simple and low-cost technique of protected mini-BAL not requiring bronchoscopy is an accurate diagnostic tool.

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