Nonventilatory Interventions in the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

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Acute respiratory distress syndrome was first described in 1967. Acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury are diseases the busy intensivist treats almost daily. The etiologies of acute respiratory distress syndrome are many. A significant distinction is based on whether the insult to the lung was direct, such as in pneumonia, or indirect, such as trauma or sepsis. Strategies for managing patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome/acute lung injury can be subdivided into 2 large groups, those based in manipulation of mechanical ventilation and those based in nonventilatory modalities. This review focuses on the nonventlilatory strategies and includes fluid restriction, exogenous surfactant, inhaled nitric oxide, manipulation of production, or administration of eicosanoids, neuromuscular blocking agents, prone position ventilation, glucocorticoids, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and administration of beta-agonists. Most of these therapies either have not been studied in large trials or have failed to show a benefit in terms of long-term patient mortality. Many of these therapies have shown promise in terms of improved oxygenation and may therefore be beneficial as rescue therapy for severely hypoxic patients. Recommendations regarding the use of each of these strategies are made, and an algorithm for implementing these strategies is suggested.

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