Objective: To compare the American-European Consensus Conference (AECC) definition of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) to autopsy findings.
Methods: All patients who died in the intensive care unit of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora University Hospital between 1995 and 2003 and were submitted to autopsy were included in the study. Patient clinical charts were reviewed to establish whether cases met the AECC criteria for a diagnosis of ARDS, histologically defined as the presence of diffuse alveolar damage (DAD).
Results: During the study period, 592 patients died, and 22 were submitted to autopsy. Of those 22 patients, 10 (45%) met the AECC criteria, and 7 (32%) met the histopathological criteria for DAD. The AECC clinical criteria presented a sensitivity of 71% (95%CI: 36-92%) and a specificity of 67% (95%CI: 42-85%). The positive and negative predictive values were, respectively, 50 and 83%, whereas the positive and negative likelihood ratios were, respectively, 2.33 and 0.47. The histopathological findings in the 5 patients who met AECC criteria but did not present DAD were pneumonia (n = 2), pulmonary embolism (n = 1), tuberculosis (n = 1), and cryptococcosis (n = 1).
Conclusion: The accuracy of the AECC definition of ARDS was godless than satisfactory. Due to the low positive predictive value and the low positive likelihood ratio, other hypotheses must be considered when ARDS is suspected.