Going Down The Wrong Pipe

When food, drink, or stomach contents make their way into your lungs, they can damage the tissues there. The damage can sometimes be severe. Aspiration also increases your risk of pneumonia. This is an infection of the lungs that causes fluid to build up in the lungs.

Chronic pulmonary aspiration (CPA) represents the repeated passage of food material, gastric refluxate, and/or saliva into the subglottic airways in a manner sufficient to cause chronic or recurrent respiratory symptoms.

How is chronic aspiration treated?

Aspiration increases your risk for aspiration pneumonia. This is a condition where pneumonia develops after you’ve inhaled bacteria (through food, drink, saliva, or vomit) into your lungs. Too much liquid in your lungs can also result in a pulmonary edema, which puts a strain on your lungs.

In most cases, you will not know you have developed pneumonia or pulmonary edema until you experience other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing with mucus, and more.

Anyone exhibiting these symptoms should contact their doctor. Let them know if you have recently inhaled any food or liquids. It’s especially critical that children under 2 years of age or adults over the age of 65 get medical attention and a quick diagnosis.

Usually, the first step in the medical management of chronic aspiration is the treatment of bronchopulmonary complications (eg, pneumonia). This treatment may entail antibiotic therapy that covers anaerobic and pseudomonal species and intubation for ventilatory support and intensive care.

Aspiration, suction (medicine) to remove liquid or gas/dust

Aspiration, the inhalation of fluid while drinking, a common symptom of dysphagia.

Aspiration pneumonia, a lung infection caused by pulmonary aspiration

Pulmonary aspiration, the entry of secretions or foreign material into the trachea and lungs

Pulmonary aspiration is the entry of material such as pharyngeal secretions, food or drink, or stomach contents from the oropharynx or gastrointestinal tract, into the larynx (voice box) and lower respiratory tract, the portions of the respiratory system from the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. A person may inhale the material, or it may be delivered into the tracheobronchial tree during positive pressure ventilation. When pulmonary aspiration occurs during eating and drinking, the aspirated material is often colloquially referred to as “going down the wrong pipe.”

Consequences of pulmonary aspiration range from no injury at all, to chemical pneumonitis or pneumonia, to death within minutes from asphyxiation. These consequences depend on the volume, chemical composition, particle size, and presence of infectious agents in the aspirated material, and on the underlying health status of the person.

In healthy people, aspiration of small quantities of material is common and rarely results in disease or injury. People with significant underlying disease or injury are at greater risk for developing respiratory complications following pulmonary aspiration, especially hospitalized patients, because of certain factors such as depressed level of consciousness and impaired airway defenses (gag reflex and respiratory tract antimicrobial defense system). The lumen of the right main bronchus is more vertical and slightly wider than that of the left, so aspirated material is more likely to end up in this bronchus or one of its subsequent bifurcations.

About 3.6 million cases of pulmonary aspiration or foreign body in the airway occurred in 2013.

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