Chronic aspiration pneumonia

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 31 Mar 2021

Chronic aspiration pneumonia occurs when recurrent episodes of aspirated particles lead to chronic granulomatous inflammation of the airways and lungs. 

This article will focus on the chronic form of aspiration (cf. acute aspiration pneumonia), for a broader discussion, please refer to the parent article on aspiration pneumonia.

This results from the repeated passage of food material, gastro-esophageal reflux content, and/or saliva into the subglottic airways and then into the lungs over a prolonged period of time.

Findings can vary dependent on the duration and amount of content and involves mainly dependent lung regions although at times can have a random distribution.

While each feature on its own can be non-specific, chronic aspiration changes can include a combination of:

There may be a predisposing factor for aspiration such as hiatus hernia, features supportive of reflux or a stroke in clinical history or other imaging.

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