Villar J, Ferrando C, Tusman G, Berra L, Rodríguez-Suárez P, Suárez-Sipmann F
Front Physiol 12 (-) 774025 [2021-11-30; online 2021-11-30]
The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a severe form of acute hypoxemic respiratory failure caused by an insult to the alveolar-capillary membrane, resulting in a marked reduction of aerated alveoli, increased vascular permeability and subsequent interstitial and alveolar pulmonary edema, reduced lung compliance, increase of physiological dead space, and hypoxemia. Most ARDS patients improve their systemic oxygenation, as assessed by the ratio between arterial partial pressure of oxygen and inspired oxygen fraction, with conventional intensive care and the application of moderate-to-high levels of positive end-expiratory pressure. However, in some patients hypoxemia persisted because the lungs are markedly injured, remaining unresponsive to increasing the inspiratory fraction of oxygen and positive end-expiratory pressure. For decades, mechanical ventilation was the only standard support technique to provide acceptable oxygenation and carbon dioxide removal. Mechanical ventilation provides time for the specific therapy to reverse the disease-causing lung injury and for the recovery of the respiratory function. The adverse effects of mechanical ventilation are direct consequences of the changes in pulmonary airway pressures and intrathoracic volume changes induced by the repetitive mechanical cycles in a diseased lung. In this article, we review 14 major successful and unsuccessful randomized controlled trials conducted in patients with ARDS on a series of techniques to improve oxygenation and ventilation published since 2010. Those trials tested the effects of adjunctive therapies (neuromuscular blocking agents, prone positioning), methods for selecting the optimum positive end-expiratory pressure (after recruitment maneuvers, or guided by esophageal pressure), high-frequency oscillatory ventilation, extracorporeal oxygenation, and pharmacologic immune modulators of the pulmonary and systemic inflammatory responses in patients affected by ARDS. We will briefly comment physiology-based gaps of negative trials and highlight the possible needs to address in future clinical trials in ARDS.