Ventilator-associated pneumonia: present understanding and ongoing debates



Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a common cause of nosocomial infection, and is related to significant utilization of health-care resources. In the past decade, new data have emerged about VAP epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.


Classifying VAP strictly based on time since hospitalization (early- and late-onset VAP) can potentially result in undertreatment of drug-resistant organisms in ICUs with a high rate of drug resistance, and overtreatment for patients not infected with resistant pathogens. A combined strategy incorporating diagnostic scoring systems, such as the Clinical Pulmonary Infection Score (CPIS), and either a quantitative or qualitative microbiological specimen, plus serial measurement of biomarkers, leads to responsible antimicrobial stewardship. The newly proposed ventilator-associated events (VAE) surveillance definition, endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has low sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing VAP and the ability to prevent VAE is uncertain, making it a questionable surrogate for the quality of ICU care. The use of adjunctive aerosolized antibiotic treatment can provide high pulmonary concentrations of the drug and may facilitate shorter durations of therapy for multi-drug-resistant pathogens. A group of preventive strategies grouped as a ‘ventilator bundle’ can decrease VAP rates, but not to zero, and several recent studies show that there are potential barriers to implementation of these prevention strategies.


The morbidity and mortality related to VAP remain high and, in the absence of a gold standard test for diagnosis, suspected VAP patients should be started on antibiotics based on recommendations per the 2005 ATS guidelines and knowledge of local antibiotic susceptibility patterns. Using a combination of clinical severity scores, biomarkers, and cultures might help with reducing the duration of therapy and achieving antibiotic de-escalation.

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Nair, G.B., Niederman, M.S. Ventilator-associated pneumonia: present understanding and ongoing debates. Intensive Care Med 41, 34–48 (2015).

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  • Nosocomial pneumonia
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia
  • Ventilator-associated complications
  • Prevention
  • Antimicrobial treatment