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Aspiration: /aspə’rāSH(ə)n/ Noun An Ambiguous Term Used for a Diagnosis of Uncertainty

Ferguson, John, MD*; Ravert, Brian, MD; Gailey, Michael, DO

doi: 10.1097/CPM.0000000000000277
Topics in Pulmonary Medicine

Aspiration is a mechanism in which liquid or solid penetrates into the lungs, which overlaps several disease states. Use of the terms aspiration and aspiration pneumonia is ambiguous and may include pulmonary infection, oropharyngeal dysphagia, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This article reviews the literature and classifies 13 distinct syndromes, grouped into 3 categories to help delineate the different disease states associated with pulmonary aspiration. Chronic anaerobic pulmonary infection should be most precisely referred to as anaerobic pneumonia. The commonly used term, aspiration pneumonia, is misleading to clinicians and should be abandoned.

*Rocky Mountain Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Wheat Ridge

Rocky Mountain Radiologists

AmeriPath: Anatomic Pathology Services, Denver, CO

Disclosure: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence to: John Ferguson, MD, 8550 W. 38th Avenue, Suite 202, Wheat Ridge, CO 80403. E-mail:

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