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J Pediatr. 1993 Jul;123(1):35-45.

Adult respiratory distress syndrome in children: associated disease, clinical course, and predictors of death.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PA 19104-4399.


The adult respiratory distress syndrome is a common cause of respiratory failure; however, its incidence, risk factors, course, and mortality rate for children remain incompletely understood. A 24-month surveillance of pediatric intensive care admissions identified 60 children with adult respiratory distress syndrome constituting 2.7% of such admissions, 8% of total days spent in a pediatric intensive care unit, and 33% of deaths. The mortality rate was 62% (confidence interval, 48.2% to 73.9%). Adult respiratory distress syndrome occurred in approximately 12% of children admitted for sepsis, viral pneumonia, smoke inhalation, or drowning. A low incidence (< 3%) was observed in children admitted with pulmonary contusion or multiple trauma. Ongoing changes in measures of pulmonary gas exchange varied with the magnitude of alveolar injury; no differences were associated with the underlying acute disease or lung injury mechanism. Efficiency of oxygenation differed among outcome groups by the second day after onset of adult respiratory distress syndrome. An alveolar-arterial oxygen tension difference > 420 was the best early predictor of death (sensitivity 80%, specificity 87%, positive predictive value 87%, negative predictive value 80%, and odds ratio 26.7). We conclude that adult respiratory distress syndrome behaves clinically as a single disease regardless of the underlying cause; its course and outcome are dependent on the magnitude of alveolar injury. We speculate that strategies for minimizing secondary lung injury may benefit all patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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