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To determine risk factors for nosocomial pneumonia in critically ill trauma patients.Prospective cohort study.The trauma intensive care unit (ICU) of a 1500-bed tertiary-care hospital.All critically ill trauma patients (n = 103) admitted consecutively between November 1995 and October 1996.A comparison of data recorded at the time of ICU admission and during the clinical evolution in patients with (n = 23) and without (n = 80) nosocomial pneumonia was made. Data referred mainly to possible risk factors were recorded; they also included factors related to pneumonia etiology and evolutive factors. Predictors of nosocomial pneumonia were assessed by logistic regression analysis.The presence of significant growth on quantitative cultures of the protected specimen brush (≥103 colony forming units/mL) was required to accept pneumonia as microbiologically proven, as well as the concurrence of a cohort of clinical and radiologic signs. Twenty-three (22.3%) patients developed nosocomial pneumonia. The mean age of these patients was 41.7 yrs; 18 of them (78.3%) were men. The microorganisms isolated in significant concentrations were Acinetobacter baumanii (ten cases), Staphylococcus aureus (11 cases), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (five cases), Haemophilus influenzae (two cases), and Klebsiella pneumoniae, Citrobacter freundii, Serratia marcenscens, Enterococcus spp., Enterobacter spp., coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus intermedius (one case each one). Risk factors for pneumonia by univariate analysis included nasogastric tube; continuous enteral feeding; prolonged mechanical ventilation (>1 day); use of H2-receptor antagonist, sucralfate, muscle relaxants, corticosteroids, barbiturates, and inotropic agents; positive end-expiratory pressure; intense sedation; re-intubation; tracheotomy; urgent brain computed tomography (CT) scan; craniotomy; iatrogenic event; and hyperventilation. The mortality rate was 43.5% (10 of 23) in the nosocomial pneumonia group and 18.8% in patients without nosocomial pneumonia (p = .02). Also, the mean stay in the ICU, the therapeutic charge (measured with total and mean punctuation of the Therapeutic Intervention Scoring System) and the complications, infectious and noninfectious, of the clinical evolution were significantly more frequent in patients with nosocomial pneumonia than in those without pneumonia (p < .05). In the multivariate analysis, continuous enteral feeding, craniotomy, prolonged mechanical ventilation (>24 hrs), use of positive end-expiratory pressure, and corticotherapy were independent predictors of nosocomial pneumonia.It seems that factors related to the patient’s clinical course, rather than variables registered on the first days of ICU admission, are those that would exert an influence on the development of nosocomial pneumonia in critically ill trauma patients. In this way, from our point of view, in our study the main risk factors are the use of prolonged mechanical ventilation (>4 hrs) and positive end-expiratory pressure. At the same time, we can conclude that the reduction of this infection incidence could decrease the mean stay in the ICU, the therapeutic charge, and the prognosis in terms of mortality and morbidity.