The incidence of ARDS and associated mortality in severe TBI using the Berlin definition

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The incidence of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is poorly reported. Recently, a new definition for ARDS was proposed, the Berlin definition. The percentage of patients represented by TBI in the Berlin criteria study is limited. This study describes the incidence and associated mortality of ARDS in TBI patients.


The study was an analysis of the safety of erythropoietin administration and transfusion threshold on the incidence of ARDS in severe TBI patients. Three reviewers independently assessed all patients enrolled in the study for acute lung injury/ARDS using the Berlin and the American-European Consensus Conference (AECC) definitions. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to assess the relationship between ARDS and mortality and 6-month Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score.


Two hundred patients were enrolled in the study. Of the patients, 21% (41 of 200) and 26% (52 of 200) developed ARDS using the AECC and Berlin definitions, respectively, with a median time of 3 days (interquartile range, 3) after injury. ARDS by either definition was associated with increased mortality (p = 0.04) but not with differences in functional outcome as measured by the GOS score at 6 months. Adjusted analysis using the Berlin criteria showed an increased mortality associated with ADS (p = 0.01).


Severe TBI is associated with an incidence of ARDS ranging from 20% to 25%. The incidence is comparable between the Berlin and AECC definitions. ARDS is associated with increased mortality in severe TBI patients, but further studies are needed to validate these findings.


Epidemiologic study, level II.

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