Surveillance cultures in healthcare-associated pneumonia: sense or nonsense?

Johannes B. J. Scholte, Walther N. K. A. van Mook, Catharina F. M. Linssen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose of reviewThis review explores the usefulness of surveillance cultures in healthcare-associated pneumonia (HCAP).Recent findingsThe definition of HCAP is controversial. Causative micro-organisms of HCAP resemble those found in hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). Some types of surveillance cultures have proven useful in hospitalized patients. Whereas numerous studies have investigated the role of surveillance cultures in VAP, one may wonder whether surveillance culture implementation should belong in HCAP management guidelines.SummaryStudies exploring the usefulness of obtaining surveillance cultures in VAP are numerous, but are mostly retrospective, observational and/or quasi-experimental in nature. Surveillance cultures may be useful for antibiotic guidance, but positive predictive value and specificity of surveillance cultures are low, obviously negatively impacting on cost effectiveness, especially in the large population at risk for HCAP. On the other hand, multidrug-resistance is increasing and surveillance cultures for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci in ICU-admitted patients appeared useful and cost-effective. Furthermore, surveillance cultures for the presence of multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacilli might be useful for antibiotic guidance. Currently, neither community-acquired pneumonia, HCAP, HAP nor VAP guidelines incorporate surveillance cultures. In the future, surveillance cultures in populations at risk for HCAP may be able to differentiate HCAP from other kinds of pneumonia and authorize its reason for existence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-271
JournalCurrent Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • guidelines
  • healthcare-associated pneumonia
  • ICUs
  • multidrug-resistant
  • surveillance cultures
  • ventilator-associated pneumonia

Cite this