Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia



Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a lung infection that affects people who are on mechanical ventilation. Pneumonia affects the small airways and air sacs in the lungs. It can make it hard for oxygen to pass into the body.

Alveoli in the Lungs.

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=25472547si2114.jpgAlveoliNULLjpgAlveoliNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si2114.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.29NULL2002-10-012553912547_602987Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Ventilator-associated pneumonia is commonly caused by a specific bacterium. Mechanical ventilation can raise the risk of pneumonia. The tube that is needed in the throat makes it easier for bacteria to get deep into the lungs.

Risk Factors

Ventilator-associated pneumonia is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the are:

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Conditions that affect the nervous system
  • A weakened immune system
  • Long term use of antibiotics
  • Repeated placement of a tube in the throat
  • A tube placed through an opening in the throat rather than through the nose or mouth
  • Long term ventilation
  • Continuous sedation
  • Long periods of lying on your back
  • Poor nutrition


Problems may be:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Thick mucus, greenish mucus, or pus like phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nails or lips that are blue in color


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Your body fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests—to measure oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid in the blood
  • Blood cultures—to look for what may be causing infection
  • Cultures from below the chest tube

Pictures may be taken of the area. This can be done with:


The goal is to treat the infection and promote breathing. This can be done with:

  • Antibiotics
  • Oxygen therapy—to improve the level of oxygen in the body


The care team of a person who is on mechanical ventilation will take steps to lower the risk of VAP.





  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ventilator-associated-pneumonia.
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/HAI/vap/vap.html.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.