Objective: To systematically review clinical trials in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Data sources: Computerized bibliographic search of published research and citation review of relevant articles.
Study selection: All clinical trials of therapies for ARDS were reviewed. Therapies that have been compared in prospective, randomized trials were the focus of this analysis.
Data extraction: Data on population, interventions, and outcomes were obtained by review. Studies were graded for quality of scientific evidence.
Main results: Lung protective ventilator strategy is supported by improved outcome in a single large, prospective trial and a second smaller trial. Other therapies for ARDS, including noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, inverse ratio ventilation, fluid restriction, inhaled nitric oxide, almitrine, prostacyclin, liquid ventilation, surfactant, and immune-modulating therapies, cannot be recommended at this time. Results of small trials using corticosteroids in late ARDS support the need for confirmatory large clinical trials.
Conclusions: Lung protective ventilator strategy is the first therapy found to improve outcome in ARDS. Trials of prone ventilation and fluid restriction in ARDS and corticosteroids in late ARDS support the need for large, prospective, randomized trials.