Diagnosing acute respiratory distress syndrome in resource limited settings: the Kigali modification of the Berlin definition

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Purpose of review

The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) was re-defined by a panel of experts in Berlin in 2012. Although the Berlin criteria improved upon the validity and reliability of the definition, it did not make diagnosis of ARDS in resource limited settings possible. Mechanical ventilation, arterial blood gas measurements, and chest radiographs are not feasible in many regions of the world. In 2014, we proposed and applied the Kigali modification of the Berlin definition in a hospital in Rwanda. This review synthesizes literature from the last 18 months relevant to the Kigali modification.

Recent findings

In the last 18 months, the need for a universally applicable ARDS definition was reinforced by advances in supportive care that can be implemented in resource poor settings. Research demonstrating the variable impact of positive end expiratory pressure on hypoxemia, the validity of using pulse oximetry rather than arterial blood gas to categorize hypoxemia, and the accuracy of lung ultrasound support the use of the Kigali modification of the Berlin definition.


Studies directly comparing the Berlin definition to the Kigali modification are needed. Ongoing clinical research on ARDS needs to include low-income countries.

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