What Are Sequelae After Pneumonia?

Sequelae after pneumonia is one of its possible complications. What do you already know about it? Here, we'll explain more.
What Are Sequelae After Pneumonia?

Last update: 29 June, 2021

Pneumonia is the infection that produces the highest number of hospital admissions. In fact, 10% of them end up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In addition, there can be multiple sequelae after pneumonia, and they can vary between adults and children.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), this disease causes the death of approximately 1.6 million people in the world every year. What causes it? What sequelae can it leave in some patients? Here, we’ll tell you all about it.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a very common infectious lung disease. It consists of inflammation of the lung tissue, accompanied by an increase and condensation of secretions in the alveolar spaces. These are the lung sacs where the gas exchange of oxygen and CO2 takes place.

This causes a change in lung functions, which can put your health at risk. Although most of the cases resolve without complications, some patients are left with sequelae after pneumonia that affect their quality of life.

A doctor pointing at a lung scan.

Prognosis for pneumonia

To better understand it, the prognosis of the disease is measured as the expected result, the chances of recovering from it, and the possible sequelae that will remain afterwards. The prognosis of pneumonia depends on different conditions or factors, such as:

  • Age. The older you are, the worse the prognosis, due to the decrease in defenses.
  • Status of the person. Having other chronic diseases worsens the prognosis. For example, this includes diabetes, COPD, immunosuppression (low defenses), heart or kidney failure, cancer, recent traumatic accidents, and so on.
  • Toxic habitsSmoking or alcoholism increases the risk of complications.
  • Severe onset of the disease. The more aggressive the pneumonia, the worse the prognosis.
  • Diagnostic stage. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the more likely you’ll have a successful outcome.
  • Inadequate or late treatment. Failure to treat pneumonia in time, or to treat it with medications that won’t work, increases the risk of complications.
  • Cause of pneumonia. If the bacteria or virus that causes pneumonia isn’t the most common, without a specific treatment, the prognosis worsens.

What are sequelae after pneumonia?

In general, one of the most important factors to reduce complications and sequelae after pneumonia is the early diagnosis of the disease. If there isn’t good progress in the first week of treatment, you shouldn’t rule out complications or sequelae.

For scientists, complications and sequelae aren’t the same. In the case of sequelae, it turns out to be permanent or prolonged damage as a consequence of the disease. In fact, it can even affect your life after it appears.

A complication is a serious problem that happens during the disease process. If they happen during the evolution of pneumonia, they increase your risk of suffering from sequelae.

A patient with complications from pneumonia.

Sequelae after pneumonia in adults

Among the sequelae after pneumonia, these are some conditions that may appear, depending on the risk factors we have discussed:

  • Pleural effusion (Bronchopleural fistula). Pulmonary fluid from pneumonia builds up in the layers surrounding the lungs (pleura). This doesn’t let your lungs ventilate properly, which causes respiratory failure.
  • Lung abscess. Collection of pus in the lung spaces.
  • Bronchiectasis. Dilation of the bronchi, which alters normal lung function.
  • Sepsis. The infection can spread to the blood and other regions by coming into contact with broken blood vessels (from the efforts of coughing).
  • Cardiovascular disorders. Increases the risk of heart disease. Pneumonia makes the heart work harder, trying to help the lung remove fluid and transport gases through the blood.
  • Worsening of previous diseases. This can affect diabetes, kidney and heart diseases, autoimmune diseases, etc. However, it can especially affect respiratory diseases like COPD.

Sequelae after pneumonia in children

As a general rule, pneumonia in children is caused by viruses that usually don’t cause sequelae. For example, these can be:

  • Bronchiectasis. This is the same as in adults.
  • Obliterative bronchiolitis. This is a narrowing of the pulmonary sacs.
  • Bronchial hyper-responsiveness. These are lung spasms (bronchospasms) when exposed to elements like food or the environment. They can be elements like dust, pollen, and more. It’s very similar to asthma.
  • Bronchial hyper-secretion. Lungs produce a lot of mucus. Then, they become more sensitive to substances in the environment.
A sick child lying on the couch.

The aftermath of pneumonia: what to remember

In both adults and children, the greatest complication and, therefore, permanent sequelae, is the threat of death. Therefore, early treatment is the most important thing.

In addition, if you think you have this respiratory disease, it’s best to go to the doctor to get tested and reduce the chances of complications and sequelae.

Finally, prevention is also very important. Make sure that you get the pneumococcal vaccine, follow a balanced diet, and keep good health habits.

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