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Free Content Transthoracic lung aspiration for the aetiological diagnosis of pneumonia: 25 years of experience from The Gambia [Review article]

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Pneumonia remains the leading cause of death in young children worldwide. Global pneumonia control depends on a good understanding of the aetiology of pneumonia. Percutaneous transthoracic aspiration culture is much more sensitive than blood culture in identifying the aetiological agents of pneumonia. However, the procedure is not widely practised because of lack of familiarity with it and concerns about potential adverse events. We review the diagnostic usefulness and safety of this procedure over 25 years of its use in research and routine practice at the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), The Gambia, and give a detailed description of the procedure itself. Published materials were identified from the MRC's publication database and systematic searches using the PubMed/Medline and Google search engines. Data from a current pneumonia aetiology study in the unit are included together with clinical experience of staff practising at the unit over the period covered in this review. A minimum of 500 lung aspirates were performed over the period of review. Lung aspiration produces a greater yield of diagnostic bacterial isolates than blood culture. It is especially valuable clinically when pathogens not covered by standard empirical antibiotic treatment, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staphylococcus aureus, are identified. There have been no deaths following the procedure in our setting and a low rate of other complications, all transient. Lung aspiration is currently the most sensitive method for diagnosing pneumonia in children. With appropriate training and precautions it can be safely used for routine diagnosis in suitable referral hospitals.
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Keywords: Africa; Gambia; children; lung aspiration; pneumonia

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: Clinical Services Department, Medical Research Council Laboratories, Banjul, The Gambia 2: Bacterial Diseases Programme, Medical Research Council Laboratories, Banjul, The Gambia 3: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK 4: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, Washington, USA

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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