AssessmentsAcute respiratory distress syndrome: Clinical practice
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A 62-year-old man presents to the emergency department after being pulled out of a frozen lake. The family reports the patient was fishing when he suddenly fell through the ice; he was extricated 10 minutes later. The patient has a past medical history of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction and hypertension. His temperature is 34°C (93.2°F), pulse is 45/min, respirations are 22/min, blood pressure is 110/94 mmHg, and oxygen saturation is 85% on room air. Physical examination shows a male patient who is shivering, appears pale, and is cool to the touch. The patient can speak one- to two-word sentences at a time, but his history is limited by a persistent non-productive cough and altered mental status. The patient is subsequently intubated for airway protection and admitted to the intensive care unit on mechanical ventilation. A chest x-ray and laboratory results are demonstrated below:
Reproduced from: Wikipedia
|Blood Gases, Serum|
|PO2||53 mm Hg|
|Cardiac Enzymes, Serum|
|Brain Natriuretic Peptide (BNP)||<100 ng/dL (N = <100)|
Content Reviewers:Rishi Desai, MD, MPH
Now, any damage to the alveolar epithelium or the capillary endothelium increases the permeability of the alveolar-capillary membrane, causing fluid to move into the alveoli.
The fluid also dilutes out the surfactant molecules coating the alveoli, and as a result the alveoli are less able to remain open and compliant, so they become stiff.
If the injury continues, the alveoli eventually collapse.
Now, the pulmonary edema from ARDS causes the same problems as pulmonary edema from congestive heart failure, but because the triggering events are different, the term non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema is often used for ARDS.
Now, ARDS is not a primary lung disease, rather it arises as a complication of a systemic injury that causes widespread inflammation which results in damage to the alveolar-capillary membranes within the lung.
The most common underlying systemic cause of ARDS is sepsis, which causes systemic inflammation in response to an infection.
But other insults include trauma, severe burns, near-drowning, disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC, acute pancreatitis, massive blood transfusions, aspiration of gastric contents, and toxic smoke inhalation.
The list basically includes any serious injury that directly or indirectly affects the entire body.
So, as you would guess, individuals with ARDS are very sick, and have severe shortness of breath, tachypnea, hypoxemia, and diffuse crackles on auscultation of the chest. At that point, it’s important to look for an underlying cause, like a pneumonia, urinary tract infection, or an infected intravenous line - all of which might result in sepsis.
It’s equally important to make sure that the signs of pulmonary edema are not due to heart failure.
ARDS is clinically diagnosed by fulfilling the following criteria: the symptoms developed within 1 week of the suspected injury, a chest x-ray shows diffuse bilateral opacities, the symptoms are not fully explained by congestive heart failure, and the ratio of the partial pressure of oxygen in the arteries or PaO2, to the fraction of inspired oxygen, or FiO2 is less than 300 mmHg.
The first two criteria are usually straightforward.
For criterion 3, there are some ways to help objectively determine whether congestive heart failure is contributing to the pulmonary edema.
First, you can measure the serum brain-natriuretic peptide, or BNP levels, which are elevated in congestive heart failure.
The PCWP is increased in heart failure, typically over 18 mmHg.
In ARDS, BNP levels, the ejection fraction and myocardial relaxation, and PCWP are all normal.
Now, measurement of the PCWP is the most accurate in differentiating ARDS from heart failure, but it’s not routinely done because it’s invasive.
For criteria 4, an arterial blood gas or ABG is needed to calculate the PaO2 to the FiO2 ratio.
The PaO2 is measured in millimeters of mercury, while the FiO2 is measured as a decimal between 0.21, which is the FiO2 of the atmospheric air, and 1, which is the maximum FiO2 you can artificially give an individual.