Introduction: Although national surveillance data suggests that the incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP) is down-trending, it remains one of the most commonly encountered hospital acquired infections in the United States and worldwide. Its association with increased healthcare costs and worsened patient outcomes warrants continued effort to improve the care of patients with VAP. Areas covered: The increasing prevalence of multi-drug resistant bacteria further drives the need to explore advances in diagnostic and treatment options. In this review, controversies pertaining to the definition and diagnosis of VAP as well as empiric treatment strategies will be discussed along with several developments related to rapid microbiologic testing methods and the use of non-traditional antimicrobial agents. Expert commentary: The application of rapid diagnostic techniques to identify microbial pathogens is perhaps one of the most impactful advancements in the treatment of serious nosocomial infections. This technology has the potential to reduce inappropriate initial antimicrobial therapy, unnecessary antimicrobial exposure, and mortality in patients with VAP. In addition, the anticipated approval of new antimicrobial agents within the next several years will provide a much-needed expansion of available treatment options in an era of growing antimicrobial resistance.