In 12 years 627 patients presented to Wentworth Hospital, Natal with chronic destructive pneumonia (CDP). Common symptoms were haemoptysis, the production of foul-smelling sputum, and chest pain. The disease pursued a chronic course with acute exacerbations which may be lethal. The majority of patients were African men aged between 20 and 50 years who were free from other significant disease apart from dental infection. Radiographically and pathologically CDP had the characteristics of a necrotising pneumonia, and microbiological investigation showed mixed aerobic and anaerobic flora in the lower respiratory tract. Gram-positive aerobic cocci and Bacteroides species were the predominant organisms. In 120 patients treatment regimens were based on chloramphenicol, in 429 cephalosporins, and in 78 on combination therapy with cephalosporins, penicillin, and metronidazole. One hundred and seventy patients also required operative management in an attempt to control progress of the disease. The overall inpatient mortality rate from CDP was 7.8%. In the group of patients treated with combination therapy the mortality rate was 1.3%.
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