Bacterial Pneumonia (cont.)
Bacterial Pneumonia Diagnosis
Pneumonia can be diagnosed simply by a doctor listening to the patient's lungs. Certain sounds heard through a stethoscope may
- One of the easiest tests to perform is pulse
oximetry, sometimes called "pulse ox." A probe that looks like a clothespin is
gently attached to the patient's finger, toe, or ear. A special light shines through
the skin to estimate how much oxygen the patient has in the bloodstream. If the
oxygen level is lower than expected, the lungs are not working properly and it may mean
the patient has pneumonia.
- A chest X-ray can help identify which part
of the patient's lung is infected. An X-ray also can show abnormal fluid collections
which also can help diagnose pneumonia.
- The patient may have blood drawn. Laboratory tests can show that the immune system is working properly to fight off infection. They also show whether
the patient has enough red blood cells to
carry oxygen or whether the bacteria is in the bloodstream.
- Occasionally the doctor may need to sample blood
from one of the patient's arteries (usually in the wrist) in order to get an exact measurement of how well
the patient is exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. This test, called an arterial blood gas
("ABG" or "blood gas"), is very important, takes only a minute, and is done
with a very small needle and syringe. This test cannot use the blood sampled
from the patient's veins.
- Sometimes the doctor will collect some of the patient's
sputum and view it under a microscope. Certain stains, or dyes, used on the sputum can
assist the doctor in diagnosing the bacterium is causing pneumonia. Sputum
cultures may also be performed. In these tests, the sputum is put on a plate
to help it grow so a laboratory specialist can identify the specific
- If the patient is admitted to the hospital, the doctor will draw blood and send it to the laboratory so that it may also be cultured to determine whether bacteria are present in the bloodstream. There are also urine
(urinalysis) and blood
tests that examines the patient's immune system response to infection. These can also help determine the cause of the pneumonia.
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