Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever

Finding contradicts belief that death rate associated with condition has dropped

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FRIDAY, Jan. 23, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- The death rate for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) hasn't changed since 1994, according to a study that contradicts the common belief there's been a steady decline in the percentage of ARDS patients who die.

The researchers reviewed studies conducted between 1984 and 2006, and found the death rate for patients with ARDS and related acute lung injury (ALI) is 40 percent to 45 percent, much higher than the suggested benchmark rate of 25 percent to 30 percent.

The findings were published in the first February issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

ARDS is lung condition that develops when trauma to the lungs leads to inflammation, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, low blood oxygen, and respiratory distress.

"The main finding of our systematic review is that mortality due to ARDS has remained static at 44 percent for observational studies and 36 percent for randomized controlled trials since a standard definition [of ARDS] was introduced in 1994," wrote Dr. Niall Ferguson, director of clinical research and critical care medicine at the University Health Network of the University of Toronto.

He said the findings "highlight the need for future effective therapeutic interventions for this highly lethal syndrome."

Ferguson and his colleagues suggested several factors may contribute to the high death rate among ARDS patients, such as an inadequate number of effective therapies for ARDS and inconsistent use of the effective therapies that do exist.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about ARDS.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Jan. 23, 2009

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