Ventilation of patients with acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome: has new evidence changed clinical practice?

Crit Care Med. 2004 Jun;32(6):1260-5. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000127784.54727.56.


Objectives: A recent randomized trial of mechanical ventilation in acute lung injury (ALI)/adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) demonstrated a 22% relative reduction in mortality rate using 6 mL/kg predicted body weight tidal volume vs. 12 mL/kg predicted body weight tidal volume. We determined whether publication of these findings changed clinical practice.

Design: Retrospective cohort, 12 months before (Pre) and 12 months after publication (Post) of a randomized trial supporting the use of a 6 mL/kg predicted body weight tidal volume strategy.

Setting: Three tertiary care hospitals in northern New England.

Patients: From a sample of 943 patients receiving prolonged mechanical ventilation between 1998 and 1999 (Pre) and between 2000 and 2001 (Post), 300 patients meeting the American-European Consensus Conference definition of ALI or ARDS were selected for analysis.

Interventions: The tidal volume, tidal volume/kg predicted body weight, and proportion receiving tidal volume/kg > or =6 mL/kg and < or =12 mL/kg predicted body weight were recorded at noon the first day after the diagnosis of ALI or ARDS was established.

Measurements and main results: Pre and Post mean tidal volume (+/- sd) size and tidal volume size/kg predicted body weight were 759 +/- 158 mL (median 750 mL) vs. 639 +/- 138 mL (median 600 mL, p <.001) and 12.3 +/- 2.7 mL/kg (median 11.7 mL/kg) vs. 10.6 +/- 2.4 mL/kg (median 10.7 mL/kg, p <.001) respectively. Pre and Post plateau pressures and peak airway pressures were similar.

Conclusion: Publication of a trial demonstrating large mortality reductions using small tidal volume was associated with significant reductions in tidal volume delivered to patients with ALI/ARDS. However, wide variation in practice persists, and the proportion of patients receiving tidal volumes within recommended limits (< or =8 mL/kg) remains modest.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tidal Volume