Reduce the High Mortality Rate

Respiratory tract infection (RTI) refers to a range of infections that can occur in the upper and lower respiratory tract. The upper respiratory tract covers the airway above the glottis (vocal chords) including the larynx, pharynx, sinuses and nose, while the lower respiratory tract (below the glotffftis) includes the trachea, bronchial tubes, bronchia and lungs. Infections are usually sub-classified by these areas (URTI and LRTI), although one of the most common RTIs, influenza, affects both the upper and lower respiratory tracts.([FOOTNOTE=Taubenberger JK, Morens DM. The pathology of influenza virus infections. Annu Revu Pathol. 1998;3:499-522.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])

Upper respiratory tract infections tend to be less severe than lower; for example tonsillitis, laryngitis and the common cold are URTIs, while bronchitis and pneumonia are LRTIs. Europe and in particular the UK see high mortality from diseases of the respiratory system, particularly in the elderly.([FOOTNOTE=Millett ERC, Quint JK, Smeeth L, et al. Incidence of Community-Acquired Lower Respiratory Tract Infections and Pneumonia among Older Adults in the United Kingdom: A Population-Based Study. Heimesaat MM, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(9):e75131.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])

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Upper respiratory tract infection

Most Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTIs) are viral, but they can also be bacterial([FOOTNOTE=Bosch A. T. M., Biesbroek G., Trzcinski K., Sanders E.A.M., Bogaert D.* Viral and Bacterial Interactions in the Upper Respiratory Tract. Plos Pathog. 2013;9(1): e1003057],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]), fungal([FOOTNOTE=Chowdhary A, Agarwal K, Meis JF. Filamentous fungi in respiratory illness. What lies beyond Aspergillosis and Mucormycosis? Plos Pathog. 2016; 12(4):e1005491],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]) or helminth([FOOTNOTE=Craig J.M., Scott, A.L. Helminths in the lungs. Parasite Immunology. 2014; 36:463–474],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]) in origin. They are thought to be the most common infectious illness in the general population, and also the leading reason for individuals to miss work and school. The result of an upper respiratory tract infection can include:

  • The common cold
  • Tonsillitis
  • Laryngitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Otitis media

Lower respiratory tract infection

Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs)  is the fifth-leading cause of death, as well as the leading infectious cause of death worldwide.([FOOTNOTE=GBD 2015 LRI Collaborators. Estimates of the global, regional, and national morbidity, mortality, and aetiologies of lower respiratory tract infectionsin 195 countries: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet Infect Dis 2017; 17: 1133–61.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]) The most common LRTI is pneumonia, which sees LTRI often used as a synonym, but in reality LRTI can refer to other types of infection, including lung abscess and acute bronchitis. 

Symptoms and risk factors

RTI illnesses share many symptoms and signs, most notably sneezing, sore throat, cough, nasal congestion and discharge, and some malaise, muscle fatigue and pain. Symptoms of itchy, watery eyes, fever and headache may point toward an allergy or influenza rather than a URTI.

Risk factors for URTIs can be the following:

  • Physical or close contact with someone with a upper respiratory infection
  • Environments like health care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, daycare centers, schools
  • Smoking
  • Immunocompromised state
  • Anatomical abnormalities (facial trauma, upper airway trauma, nasal polyps

The seriousness of LRTIs necessitates rapid and accurate diagnosis of the infection in order to minimise its effects.

Diagnosis of respiratory tract infections

Diagnosis of an RTI can be achieved through a physical examination, as outward signs and symptoms will generally be enough to indicate the presence of an infection. Diagnosing the specific type of infection is more difficult, however, and may necessitate swab, imaging, blood or pulmonary function tests([FOOTNOTE=Woodhead M, Blasi F, Ewig, S. Guidelines for the management of adult lower respiratory tract infections. Eur Respir J 2005; 26: 1138–1180.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]), particularly in the case of serious lower respiratory tract infections.

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Treatment of respiratory tract infections

Courses of treatment for respiratory tract infections vary as greatly as the conditions that the umbrella term covers. A mild URTI will not require any medical intervention, while a serious LRTI will often lead to hospitalisation. 

URTI treatments target the underlying cause with first-line medications, supplemented with decongestants and cough medicines to reduce discomfort. Antibiotics have historically been used to treat common URTIs, but health authorities are now discouraging their use because they do not significantly reduce recovery time for these viral illnesses.([FOOTNOTE=Reveiz L, Cardona AF. Antibiotics for acute laryngitis in adults. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (5): CD004783.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]),([FOOTNOTE=World Health Organization. Global action plan on antimicrobial resistance 2015.],[ANCHOR=Available at],[LINK=http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/193736/9789241509763_eng.pdf?sequence=1 ])

LRTI treatments are specific to each condition. Pneumonia treatment is guided by the patient’s CURB-65 score([FOOTNOTE=Lim WS, van der Eerden MM, Laing R, et al. Defining community acquired pneumonia severity on presentation to hospital: an international derivation and validation study. Thorax. 58 (5): 377–82.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]), lung abscess is treated primarily by broadspectrum antibiotics, pulmonary physiotherapy and postural drainage, and acute bronchitis is largely self-limiting.

Discover below which respiratory and monitoring products from Medtronic can help in the treatment of patients who have been diagnosed with respiratory tract infection.

Recommended Products

Puritan Bennett™ 980 acute care ventilator - Engineered to Help Patients Breathe More Naturally
McGRATH™ MAC video laryngoscope - Respond to both routine and difficult airways
Shiley™ oral and nasal RAE endotracheal tubes with TaperGuard™ cuff - Reduce kinks and disconnects, maintain a patent airway, and remove the circuits and connectors

Puritan Bennett™ 980 acute care ventilator

Engineered to help patients breathe more naturally

McGRATH™ MAC video laryngoscope

Respond to both routine and difficult airways

Shiley™ oral and nasal RAE endotracheal tubes with TaperGuard™ cuff

Reduce kinks and disconnects, maintain a patent airway, and remove the circuits and connectors

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