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Infectious Diseases

Ecoli infection of the lungs

02/13/2006

Question:

A family member recently had heart surgery as she had a leaking heart valve which was replaced, after surgery whilst in icu an ecoli infection in the lungs was discovered so she has been sedated and put on a ventilator. 3 attempts have been made to take her off the sedation and ventilation without success. It would be greatly appreciated if you could explain how she might have got this infection.

Answer:

I assume that your family member was on the ventilator for more than a few days, since you mention that several attempts were made to wean her off the ventilator.  The longer a person is on a ventilator, the higher the chance that a ventilator associated pneumonia will occur.  E. coli is one of the many different bacteria that can cause ventilator associated pneumonia.  The most common route for the bacteria to gain access to the lungs is through, or around the outside of, the endotracheal tube (the tube in the throat connecting the person to the ventilator).

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Response by:

Peter Grubbs, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati