Purpose of review: Despite improvements in outcome due to lung protective ventilation strategies using low tidal volumes, the mortality rate from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) remains unacceptably high, ranging from 34 to 64%. The predominant cause of death in ARDS is not severe hypoxemia, which is one of the defining criteria of ARDS, but multiple organ failure (MOF).
Recent findings: In view of the relationship between ARDS and MOF, two different but complementary pathophysiological perspectives will be developed in this article: ARDS as a consequence of MOF, and ARDS as the cause of MOF. This framework may be useful in guiding the development of novel therapeutic strategies that ultimately improve the outcome of ARDS and sepsis patients.
Summary: ARDS is a severe lung disease characterized by a very complex pathophysiology, involving not only the respiratory system but also nonpulmonary distal organs. Elucidation of the pathophysiological mechanisms bi-directionally linking MOF to ARDS appears to be a promising area of research that hopefully will lead to improved outcomes for these devastating conditions.