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Chest. 1992 Feb;101(2):320-6.

Adult respiratory distress syndrome. Sequence and importance of development of multiple organ failure. The Prostaglandin E1 Study Group.

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Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago 60612.



To determine the epidemiology of multiple organ failure (MOF) in patients with the adult respiratory distress syndrome.


We followed up 50 patients with serial determinations of respiratory and nonrespiratory organ function for seven days after diagnosis.


Data were stratified between patients who died and those who survived (defined as hospital discharge).


Values that did not differ at any time between the two groups of patients included oxygen availability, oxygen consumption, oxygen extraction, PaCO2, respiratory rate, heart rate, systolic blood pressure, cardiac output, stroke index, systemic vascular resistance, and temperature. Patients who died had greater defects in oxygenation (from day 1 through day 7). They also exhibited decreased arterial oxygen content (from day 1 to day 4), decreased mixed venous oxygen content (day 1), increased peak inspiratory pressure (present on day 2, persisted to day 5, reappeared on day 7), decreased diastolic blood pressure (seen on days 1 through 3, reappeared on day 7), and increased mean pulmonary artery pressure (seen on days 2 and 3). Nonsurvivors also exhibited greater degrees of thrombocytopenia (from day 1 to day 4). Decreases in pH (seen on day 1, reappeared from days 4 to 7), abnormalities in liver function (seen only on day 1), and increases in serum creatinine levels (appeared on day 7) were also observed.


Multiorgan dysfunction (MOD) was frequently observed in both groups of patients. Alterations in organ function and the pattern of abnormalities were often subtle and would not be characterized as significant organ dysfunction by most available organ scoring systems. Adult respiratory distress syndrome is a manifestation of systemic disease produced by widespread increases in endothelial permeability; lung dysfunction dominates the early clinical course. When respiratory function is supported, it becomes evident that alterations occur in other organs. Multiorgan failure is really a misnomer; the term emphasizes end-stage changes. Multiorgan dysfunction is common and often resolves without progressing to MOF. Alternatively, MOD can progress to MOF.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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