Background Little information is available on the types, causes, and treatment of pneumonia in intensive care unit patients in usual clinical practice.

Objective To characterize treatment of patients with presumed pneumonia in a tertiary care intensive care unit and to identify potential areas for improvement in care.

Methods In a prospective, cohort study, the sample consisted of all consecutive patients treated in an intensive care unit during a 3-month period. For patients with presumed pneumonia, data were collected on incidence of pneumonia, diagnostic investigations, microbial isolates, and antibiotics prescribed.

Results Of 194 admissions, 73 patients were treated for pneumonia: 47 had community-acquired pneumonia; 12 had hospital-acquired pneumonia; 12 had ventilator-associated pneumonia, both early (7) and late (5); and 2 had intensive care unit–acquired pneumonia. Approximately 71% of patients had microbiological tests performed. Among 54 microbial isolates, 51.9% were gram-positive bacteria, 31.5% were gram-negative bacteria, and 9.3% were Candida species. The most commonly used antimicrobials were quinolones (54 of 192 prescriptions) and cephalosporins (33); each patient received a median of 3 antibiotics.

Conclusions Most cases of pneumonia were community acquired. The most common causative organisms were gram-positive cocci. Four quality improvement strategies were rationalization of antibiotic use during rounds, nurses’ reporting of culture results, review of antibiotic appropriateness by a pharmacist, and redesign of the clinical information system.

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