Complications of corticobasal degeneration 

Aspiration pneumonia is a potentially serious complication of corticobasal degeneration (CBD).

Aspiration pneumonia is a lung infection that's triggered when a small piece of food enters the lungs.

People with CBD are particularly vulnerable to aspiration pneumonia because their impaired swallowing reflexes mean that their larynx (voice box) doesn't close when they swallow. This leaves their lungs unprotected.

The symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include:

  • high temperature (fever) of 38C or above
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath 
  • blue skin (cyanosis) due to a lack of oxygen
  • wheezing

You may also have a cough that sometimes produces foul-smelling phlegm and may contain traces of blood and pus.

Contact your care team immediately if you're being treated for CBD and you develop these symptoms. If this isn't possible, contact your local out-of-hours service or call NHS 111.

The symptoms of aspiration pneumonia can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, admission to hospital will be needed so that intravenous antibiotics can be given.

In particularly vulnerable or frail people, there's a chance that the infection could cause their lungs to become filled with fluid, preventing them from working properly. This is known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

As most people with advanced CBD are vulnerable and frail, repeated episodes of aspiration pneumonia often result in ARDS and then death.

Page last reviewed: 03/02/2014

Next review due: 03/02/2016