Background: There have been few detailed, in-person interviews and examinations to obtain follow-up data on 5-year outcomes among survivors of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Methods: We evaluated 109 survivors of ARDS at 3, 6, and 12 months and at 2, 3, 4, and 5 years after discharge from the intensive care unit. At each visit, patients were interviewed and examined; underwent pulmonary-function tests, the 6-minute walk test, resting and exercise oximetry, chest imaging, and a quality-of-life evaluation; and reported their use of health care services.
Results: At 5 years, the median 6-minute walk distance was 436 m (76% of predicted distance) and the Physical Component Score on the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey was 41 (mean norm score matched for age and sex, 50). With respect to this score, younger patients had a greater rate of recovery than older patients, but neither group returned to normal predicted levels of physical function at 5 years. Pulmonary function was normal to near-normal. A constellation of other physical and psychological problems developed or persisted in patients and family caregivers for up to 5 years. Patients with more coexisting illnesses incurred greater 5-year costs.
Conclusions: Exercise limitation, physical and psychological sequelae, decreased physical quality of life, and increased costs and use of health care services are important legacies of severe lung injury.