The Right Ventricle in ARDS
ARDS is associated with poor clinical outcomes, with a pooled mortality rate of approximately 40% despite best standards of care. Current therapeutic strategies are based on improving oxygenation and pulmonary compliance while minimizing ventilator-induced lung injury. It has been demonstrated that relative hypoxemia can be well tolerated, and improvements in oxygenation do not necessarily translate into survival benefit. Cardiac failure, in particular right ventricular dysfunction (RVD), is commonly encountered in moderate to severe ARDS and is reported to be one of the major determinants of mortality. The prevalence rate of echocardiographically evident RVD in ARDS varies across studies, ranging from 22% to 50%. Although there is no definitive causal relationship between RVD and mortality, severe RVD is associated with increased mortality. Factors that can adversely affect RV function include hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction, hypercapnia, and invasive ventilation with high driving pressure. It might be expected that early diagnosis of RVD would be of benefit; however, echocardiographic markers (qualitative and quantitative) used to prospectively evaluate the right ventricle in ARDS have not been tested in adequately powered studies. In this review, we examine the prognostic implications and pathophysiology of RVD in ARDS and discuss available diagnostic modalities and treatment options. We aim to identify gaps in knowledge and directions for future research that could potentially improve clinical outcomes in this patient population.