Purpose: The objective of this study is to describe the implementation of formal consensus techniques in the development of a clinical definition for acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Materials and methods: A Delphi consensus process was conducted using e-mail. Sixteen panelists who were both researchers and opinion leaders were systematically recruited. The Delphi technique was performed over 4 rounds on the background of an explicit definition framework. Item generation was performed in round 1, item reduction in rounds 2 and 3, and definition evaluation in round 4. Explicit consensus thresholds were used throughout.
Results: Of the 16 panelists, 11 actually participated in developing a definition that met a priori consensus rules on the third iteration. New incorporations in the Delphi definition include the use of a standardized oxygenation assessment and the documentation of either a predisposing factor or decreased thoracic compliance. The panelists rated the Delphi definition as acceptable to highly acceptable (median score, 6; range, 5-7 on a 7-point Likert scale).
Conclusions: We conclude that it is feasible to consider using formal consensus in the development of future definitions of acute respiratory distress syndrome. Testing of sensibility, reliability, and validity are needed for this preliminary definition; these test results should be incorporated into future iterations of this definition.