Complicated pneumonia in children

Fernando M. de Benedictis, Eitan Kerem, Anne B. Chang, Andrew A. Colin, Heather J. Zar, Andrew Bush

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    100 Citations (Scopus)


    Complicated community-acquired pneumonia in a previously well child is a severe illness characterised by combinations of local complications (eg, parapneumonic effusion, empyema, necrotising pneumonia, and lung abscess) and systemic complications (eg, bacteraemia, metastatic infection, multiorgan failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and, rarely, death). Complicated community-acquired pneumonia should be suspected in any child with pneumonia not responding to appropriate antibiotic treatment within 48-72 h. Common causative organisms are Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. Patients have initial imaging with chest radiography and ultrasound, which can also be used to assess the lung parenchyma, to identify pleural fluid; CT scanning is not usually indicated. Complicated pneumonia is treated with a prolonged course of intravenous antibiotics, and then oral antibiotics. The initial choice of antibiotic is guided by local microbiological knowledge and by subsequent positive cultures and molecular testing, including on pleural fluid if a drainage procedure is done. Information from pleural space imaging and drainage should guide the decision on whether to administer intrapleural fibrinolytics. Most patients are treated by drainage and more extensive surgery is rarely needed; in any event, in low-income and middle-income countries, resources for extensive surgeries are scarce. The clinical course of complicated community-acquired pneumonia can be prolonged, especially when patients have necrotising pneumonia, but complete recovery is the usual outcome.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)786-798
    Number of pages13
    JournalLancet (London, England)
    Issue number10253
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2020


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