Synonyms in a broader sense

Medical: Pneumonia Synonyms in a broader sense:

  • Lobar pneumonia
  • Atypical pneumonia
  • Interstitial pneumonia

Definition Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that can be either acute or chronic. The alveoli and/or the interstitial tissue can be affected. The inflammation rarely affects the entire lung, but usually individual sections of the lung, the lung lobes, are affected. There are various pathogens: mostly bacteria or viruses, but also fungi.

  • Right lung
  • Trachea (windpipe)
  • Tracheal bifurcation (Carina)
  • Left lung

Frequency (Epidemiology)

Occurrence in the population Pneumonia is the most common fatal infectious disease. Overall, it is the 5th most frequent cause of death. The official rate of new cases in Germany is around 140000 to 200000 annually, although a high number of unreported cases is suspected. The probability of death in previously lung-healthy individuals is about 5%. However, if the pneumonia is acquired in hospital (so-called nosocomial pneumonia), the mortality rate is up to 70%.


There are different forms of pneumonia:

  • Ambulantly acquired pneumonia (pneumonia)
  • Nosocomial pneumonia (acquired in hospital)
  • Pneumonia in severe underlying disease (kidney or heart failure, diabetes)
  • Aspiration pneumonia (aspiration means “to inhale” stomach contents; e.g. in alcoholism or diseases of the esophagus)
  • Pneumonia in immunosuppresion (e.g. weakness of the immune system due to HIV)

Signs of pneumonia

The signs of pneumonia can be different, as there are strictly speaking two forms of pneumonia: 1. in the typical form, there is a sudden strong cough, combined with purulent sputum, shortness of breath, difficult and strained breathing with pain, and high fever and chills. Temperatures quickly rise to over 38.5 degrees and breathing is accompanied by rales. In the laboratory tests, the doctor will typically find elevated inflammatory parameters, and an increased leukocyte count in the blood.

2. the signs of atypical pneumonia are less fulminant: classic is a subacute, creeping onset, with fever below 38.5 degrees. Atypical pneumonia usually develops from a flu-like infection and marks a further worsening of the previously existing disease. Patients feel less ill, the cough is also dry rather than accompanied by sputum.

Rales are faint or not audible above the lungs. The gold standard in the examination of lung diseases is the examination by stethoscope. With its help, conclusions can be drawn as to the type of disease, since altered sound patterns above the lungs during breathing always indicate the direction of the disease.

For example, rales during a lung examination indicate secretion deposits in the airways. The rales can be fine, medium or coarse bubbles, and are further subdivided into wet and dry. Coarse-bubble rales are more likely to indicate disease of large-lumen airway sections, and vice versa.

The signs of pneumonia thus depend on the type of inflammation. An increasing, slow worsening of an already existing bronchitis can be a sign of pneumonia, just like a sudden, severe course. In children, regardless of the type, the following symptoms are the most common: shortness of breath, with pain when breathing, up to cyanosis due to oxygen deficiency and subsequent circulatory collapse. Due to the shortness of breath also increased breathing frequency, pain when breathing, and nasal breathing.

  • Typical pneumonia
  • Atypical pneumonia