From July 1981 to January 1983 502 adults were treated for lobar or segmental pneumonia in a general hospital in Northern Zambia. Consolidation was present in either the right or the left lower lobe in 78.8%, the right middle lobe in 10.2% and either the right or the left upper lobe in 10.7%. Penicillin treatment failed to give an improvement in 10.7%, many of whom recovered after receiving either gentamicin or kanamycin. A high risk of death was associated with an age of 65 years or over, absence of pyrexia, absence of a leucocyte response, disease affecting multiple lobes, irreversible hypotension, underlying neoplasm, and failure to respond to penicillin treatment (p less than 0.001 in all cases). Penicillin remains the initial treatment of choice for lobar pneumonia in rural central Africa. Mortality can probably be reduced by inpatient treatment of as many patients with pneumonia as local circumstances allow, and by adding broad spectrum treatment in patients who show no improvement after 48 hours of penicillin treatment.
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