September 16, 2009

Acid reducer may up pneumonia risk

U.S. researchers suggest doctors may wish to limit acid reducer use for their ventilator patients.

The study, published in Chest, also recommends if an acid reducer is needed, less powerful ranitidine -- Zantac, which inhibits gastric acid secretion -- be used. The analysis of 834 cardiothoracic surgery patients finds those on another popular stomach acid reducer -- pantoprazole -- are three times more likely to develop pneumonia.

Acid-reducing drugs can make the stomach a more hospitable place for bacteria to colonize, but raising the heads of patients on breathing machines helps prevent stomach secretions from refluxing into the lungs and causing pneumonia.

We conducted this study, in part, because we thought we were seeing more pneumonias than we were used to having, study co-author Marc Reichert of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a statement.

Reichert recommends doctors stop using an acid reducer as soon as the risk of bleeding passes -- once the patient is off the breathing machine and eating -- either on his/her own or through a feeding tube.

Stopping the drugs earlier appears to be the best thing for patients, he said.