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Chest. 1991 Sep;100(3):762-9.

The value of portable chest roentgenography in adult respiratory distress syndrome. Comparison with computed tomography.

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Institute of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, University of Milan, Italy.


In 17 patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome, we used data derived from computed tomographic (CT) scan densitometric analysis to validate the value of portable chest roentgenograms in objectively estimating the amount of pulmonary edema. Chest roentgenograms and CT scans were taken in the same ventilatory conditions (apnea at 10 cm H2O of positive end-expiratory pressure [PEEP]); blood gas samples and hemodynamic parameters were collected at the same time. Roentgenographic analysis was undertaken by independent observers using two standardized scoring systems proposed in the literature. CT scan analysis was performed using the CT number frequency distribution and the gas lung volume (measured by helium dilution technique) to estimate quantitatively the lung density, the lung weight, and the percentage of normally aerated and nonaerated tissue. Knowing the mean CT number of the pulmonary parenchyma in a group of normal subjects, we also inferred the ideal lung weight expected in the study population and computed the excess tissue mass as the difference between actual and ideal lung weight. Both the roentgenographic scoring systems showed direct correlation with the pulmonary impairment as detected by CT scan densitometric analysis (CT number, percentage of nonaerated tissue, lung weight, and excess tissue mass; p less than 0.01) and inverse relation with the percentage of normally aerated tissue (p less than 0.01). We also found a relationship between roentgenographic scores and the impairment in gas exchange as detected by shunt fraction (p less than 0.05). We conclude that standardized reading of portable chest roentgenograms by means of scoring tables is a valuable tool in estimating the amount of pulmonary edema in a patient with adult respiratory distress syndrome.

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