In patients with the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), there is non-specific but widespread exudation of oedema and inflammatory fluid into the lungs. The clinical corollary (dyspnoea, refractory hypoxia, reduced pulmonary compliance and diffuse pulmonary infiltrates) is catastrophic and generally associated with a poor outcome. Imaging is integral to the care of these critically ill patients on the intensive care unit. In the present review, the radiological changes on plain radiography and computed tomography (CT) in patients with ARDS are discussed. Particular attention is directed at the appearances on CT: the relationships between CT features, histopathological changes and the inevitable alterations in pulmonary physiology are explored.
Copyright 2002 The Royal College of Radiologists.