Pneumonia after a blood and marrow transplant

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Parents can learn how doctors prevent and treat pneumonia after a blood and marrow transplant (BMT).

Key points

  • Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, which cause the lungs to inflame and the tissues to fill with fluid.
  • Your child will be given a medicine called Septra before the transplant, to lower their risk of pneumonia.
  • Extra oxygen, as well as different types of medicine, will be given to treat pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that may occur after a blood and marrow transplant (BMT).

What causes pneumonia?

Bacteria, viruses or fungi can cause pneumonia. They cause the lungs to inflame, and fill the tissue inside the lungs with fluid, causing difficulty with breathing.

Preventing pneumonia

Before the transplant, your child is given a medicine called Septra® to lower their risk of developing pneumonia caused by the parasite Pneumocystis carinii, which usually lives inside the trachea (windpipe). The parasite does not cause any harm in healthy people.

However, since your child’s immune system is weakened, the parasite may invade the lungs. They can grow into tiny lumps, causing pneumonia.

Septra® is very effective at preventing and treating pneumonia caused by the parasite.

How is pneumonia treated?

If your child develops pneumonia after the transplant, they may need help with breathing. Doctors will give your child extra oxygen, which is usually supplied by a mask or by nasal prongs. For infants, the upper chest and head are placed in an oxygen hood that provides extra oxygen.

To determine what is causing the pneumonia, the doctor may examine a piece of tissue from your child’s lungs under a microscope. This is called a lung biopsy.

Different medicines fight various types of pneumonias, depending on whether they are caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. Once the doctor finds the cause of your child's pneumonia, they will give your child appropriate medicines.

Last updated: January 6th 2010