Acute lung injury is a syndrome with a diagnostic criteria base on hypoxaemia and a classical radiological appearance, with acute respiratory distress syndrome at the severe end of the disease spectrum. Its incidence is common, it is likely to exist outside the intensive care setting and therefore is a condition relevant to all clinicians. Genetically predisposed individuals are subject to environmental triggers which can be intra or extrapulmonary in nature. An inflammatory response causes damage to alveolar epithelial cells and vasculature, impairing gas exchange and can lead to multiple organ failure. Management centres around supportive care and treating the cause, but evidence supports use of low tidal volume ventilatory settings and conservative intravenous fluid strategies. Long term outcomes are related to neuromuscular, cognitive and psychological issues rather than pulmonary, and rehabilitation during recovery needs to focus on this.
Meduri GU, Golden E, Freire AX, et al. Methylprednisolone infusion in early severe ARDS: results of a randomized controlled trial. Chest 2007; 131:954-63. This study of 91 patients with severe ARDS added fuel to the debate over systemic corticosteroid use in ARDS. The intervention group received steroids within 72 hours of ARDS diagnosis and a slow taper. Steroid recipients had decreased duration of mechanical ventilation and ICU stay. The higher proportion of patients with catecholamine-dependent shock among controls, cross over from control to steroids in "nonresponders" at day 7, and 2:1 randomization of treatment to control are among the concerns raised since its publication.
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