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The Diagnostic Yield of Noninvasive Microbiologic Sputum Sampling in a Cohort of Patients with Clinically Diagnosed Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia


The clinical predictors of positive sputum culture have not been previously reported in hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP), and data on yield of sputum culture in this setting are scant. Current Infectious Disease Society of America guidelines for HAP recommend noninvasive sputum sampling, though the data for this practice are limited. We assessed the yield of sputum culture in HAP cases at an academic medical center from January 2007 to July 2013. HAP cases were identified by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision-Clinical Modification codes for bacterial pneumonia and all cases were validated by chart review. Our cohort had 1172 hospitalizations with a HAP diagnosis. At least 1 sputum specimen was collected noninvasively and sent for bacterial culture after hospital day 2 and within 7 days of HAP diagnosis in 344 of these hospitalizations (29.4%), with a total of 478 sputum specimens, yielding 63 (13.2%) positive, 109 (22.8%) negative, and 306 (64.0%) contaminated cultures (>10 epithelial cells per high power field). Significant predictors of a positive sputum culture were chronic lung disease (relative risk [RR] = 2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2-3.4) and steroid use (RR = 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1-3.2). The most commonly identified organisms were Gram-negative rods not further speciated (25.9%), Staphylococcus aureus (21.0%), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (14.8%). Because of the ease of obtaining a sputum sample combined with the prevalence of commonly drug-resistant organisms, we suggest that sputum culture in HAP is a potentially useful noninvasive diagnostic technique.

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