Variability in Diagnosis and Treatment of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia in Neurocritical Care Patients

Atul A. Kalanuria, Donna Fellerman, Paul Nyquist, Romergryko Geocadin, Robert G. Kowalski, Veronique Nussenblatt, Matthew Rajarathinam, Wendy Ziai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Clinical approach to ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) in the neurocritical care unit (NCCU) varies widely among physicians despite training and validated criteria. Methods: Prospective observational study of all mechanically ventilated patients with suspected VAP over 18 months in an academic NCCU. Patients meeting VAP criteria by a surveillance program (SurvVAP) were compared to treated patients who did not meet surveillance criteria (ClinVAPonly). We identified appropriate/potentially inappropriate antibiotic treatment and factors associated with excessive antibiotic days (EAD). Results: Of 622 ventilated patients, 83 cases were treated as VAP. Of these, 26 (31.3 %) had VAP by CDC criteria (SurvVAP) (VAP rate = 7.3 cases/1,000 ventilator days). Clinical features significantly more prevalent in SurvVAP cases (vs. ClinVAPonly) were change in sputum character, tachypnea, oxygen desaturation, persistent infiltrate on chest X-ray and higher clinical pulmonary infection score, but not positive sputum culture. Treatment with pneumonia-targeted antibiotics for >8 days was significantly more common in ClinVAPonly versus SurvVAP patients (73.7 vs. 30.8 %, p < 0.001) even after excluding patients with other infections (p = 0.001). Based on current guidelines, the ClinVAPonly group contributed 225 EAD, including 38 vancomycin days, 70 piperacillin–tazobactam days and 85 cephalosporin days with cost figure over four times that of EAD in SurvVAP group. No pre-specified factors were associated with continued VAP treatment beyond 8 days. Conclusions: Incongruency between clinically and surveillance-defined VAP is common in acute neurological disease although outcomes did not differ between groups. Clinician behaviors rather than clinical factors may contribute to prolonged prescribing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-53
Number of pages10
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 3 2015


  • Antibiotics
  • Diagnosis
  • Neurocritical care
  • Pneumonia
  • Ventilator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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