While trying to summarize an evidence-based approach to pneumonia for our residency, I discovered an aimless morass that's far less helpful than originally envisioned.
"Healthcare-associated" pneumonia is a clinical entity introduced by the 2005 Infectious Disease Society of America pneumonia guidelines. The problem with these guidelines is immediately apparent in the title – "Hospital-acquired", "Ventilator-acquired", and "Healthcare-associated" are clearly distinct in their infectious epidemiology – but this guideline lumps them all together into a single empiric treatment strategy. They recommend triple antibiotic therapy, including double coverage for multi-drug resistant gram-negatives (pseudomonas, among others) and MRSA coverage. This is a fine recommendation for a critically ill ventilated patient with a new lower respiratory tract infection, but preposterous overkill for an otherwise healthy patient with a short hospital stay a couple months ago. The harms include increasing antibiotic resistance and incidence of iatrogenic end-organ damage secondary to antibiotic adverse effects.
Several articles have detailed the fallacies in this guideline and its validity in the Emergency Department setting. Furthermore, meta-analysis of studies evaluating guideline-concordant and guideline non-concordant therapy have shown no survival advantage – as most non-concordant therapy covered the community-acquired organisms that occur with far greater regularity than the multi-drug resistant organisms in the "Healthcare-associated" cohort.
With consultation from Brian Hayes and Haney Mallemat, along with my brief literature review, this is my ad hoc approach:
1) Assess risks for MDR pathogens: recent antibiotics, recent hospitalization, poor functional status, immunosuppression.
2a) Non-severe illness and community-acquired organisms likely (low MDR risk), consider antipseudomonal fluoroquinolone monotherapy (covers some pseudomonas and atypical CAP organisms) and outpatient management.
2b) If high risk for MDR or severe illness, recommend admission with anti-pseudomonal and MRSA coverage:Note these recommendations should be guided by your local antibiogram as well – at my institution, cefepime is ~90% efficatious against pseudomonas, which makes it a fine option for monotherapy. However, our fluoroquinolones are ~70%, which makes them a less desirable choice for the monotherapy option when admitting patients.
• Cephalosporin (e.g. cefepime) OR carbapenem (e.g. imipenem) OR ß-lactam/ß-lactamase inhibitor (e.g., piperacillin-tazobactam)
If severe illness, recent mechanical ventilation, or prior documented pseudomonas infection, add:
• Antipseudomonal fluoroquinolone (ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin) OR aminoglycoside (e.g. amikacin)
• Linezolid or vancomycin
Patients clearly do better when their causative organism is effectively covered – but we also have to be responsible stewards of our strongest antibiotics. Given the heterogeneity of the patient cohort described in the 2005 IDSA guidelines, it's reasonable to take a stepwise approach to therapy.
"Guidelines for the Management of Adults with Hospital-acquired, Ventilator-associated, and Healthcare-associated Pneumonia"
"Guideline-Concordant Antimicrobial Therapy for Healthcare- Associated Pneumonia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"
"Guidelines for hospital-acquired pneumonia and health-care-associated pneumonia: a vulnerability, a pitfall, and a fatal flaw."
"Healthcare-associated pneumonia is a heterogeneous disease, and all patients do not need the same broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy as complex nosocomial pneumonia."
"Low incidence of multidrug-resistant organisms in patients with healthcare-associated pneumonia requiring hospitalization."