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Pneumonia Complications

February 5, 2014

Pleural Effusion

Since pneumonia is inflammation of the lung sacs, the fluids causing this condition can also cause complications especially in the respiratory area between the lung and the chest wall were build up of fluids is likely to occur.  This issue is known as pleural effusion. Build up of fluids occurs between the membrane that surround the chest wall and the membranes covering the lungs which are known as pleurae. Normal healthy pleurae are smooth membranes that enable the lungs to move smoothly along the chest wall when a person breathes. A pleural effusion gets the pleurae inflamed making it highly susceptible to infection.

Some types of pleural effusion are rather painful. The pleuritic pain may feel like a stabbing and sharp pain felt whenever the person inhales.

Other complications that may arise from pneumonia can involve the development of pus along with inflammation of the pleura between the lung and the chest wall. This can then lead to secondary bacterial infection if the inflammation is accompanied by a viral infection.

There can be other secondary infections associated with pneumonia and these infections often affect the vagina and the digestive system.

  • Septicemia – If the bacteria manage to find its way to the bloodstream then the person can suffer from septicemia.
  • Meningitis – The bacteria can travel to the person’s head and can cause meningitis (from pneumococcal pneumonia) as well.
  • Septic Arthritis – The bacteria can also lead to septic arthritis in some cases.
  • Pericarditis – Other potential complications from pneumonia infections can include pericarditis, a condition wherein the heart muscle or the membrane surrounding the heart is inflamed.


Pneumonia can also lead to problems like pus-filled abscesses forming along the lung cavities. These abscesses start to develop when the infection begins to damage lung tissue building. They can also lead to hemorrhages inside the lung when the pneumonia is not properly and promptly treated.  These abscesses are often evidenced in some forms of aspiration pneumonia when the pathogens are conveyed into the lungs. These abscesses can be the result of three types of pneumonia bacteria:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Kelbsiella pneumonia

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Pneumococcal pneumonia has complications that can be fatal for its sufferers. It can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome where the infection severely incapacitates the lung and the person is not able to breathe enough oxygen to survive. Lack of oxygen due to the impaired mechanical function of the lungs can lead to other serious pneumonia complications.


This is one type of complication wherein the bacteria infect the blood and is one the most common complications of pneumonia. With bacteremia, the blood conveys the bacteria to other parts of the body organs leading to other secondary complications. Bacteremia is caused by either the haemophilus influenzae or pneumococcus infection.

Some other complications which pneumonia can cause include:

  • Pneumothorax – This happens when air starts filling up in the region between pleural membranes resulting in the collapse of the lungs.
  • Hemoptysis – This means the person coughs up blood and is a serious type of pneumonia complication
  • Deep vein thrombosis


Dale Roach, MD,L.Ac
178 Myrtle Blvd
Larchmont, NY 10538
Phone: 914-562-5748