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Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2004 Sep;18(3):477-92.

Inflammation and the acute respiratory distress syndrome.

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  • 1Division of Respiratory Medicine, Department of Critical Care Medicine, St Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., Canada.


Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a clinical syndrome of non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema associated with bilateral pulmonary infiltrates, stiff lungs and refractory hypoxaemia. ARDS is characterized by an explosive acute inflammatory response in the lung parenchyma, leading to alveolar oedema, decreased lung compliance and, ultimately, hypoxaemia. Although our understanding of the causes and pathophysiology of ARDS has increased, the mortality rate remains in the range of 30-50%. No major advances in pharmacological therapy have been achieved. Mechanical ventilation is the main therapeutic intervention in the management of ARDS. The only approach that has been shown to reduce the inflammatory response and mortality is the use of lung-protective ventilatory strategy with a low tidal volume and high positive-end expiratory pressure. This chapter will review the current state of the literature on the pathogenesis of ARDS and ventilatory and pharmacotherapy approaches to its management.

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