This article examines exogenous lung surfactant replacement therapy and its usefulness in mitigating clinical acute lung injury (ALI) and the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Surfactant therapy is beneficial in term infants with pneumonia and meconium aspiration lung injury, and in children up to age 21 years with direct pulmonary forms of ALI/ARDS. However, extension of exogenous surfactant therapy to adults with respiratory failure and clinical ALI/ARDS remains a challenge. This article reviews clinical studies of surfactant therapy in pediatric and adult patients with ALI/ARDS, focusing on its potential advantages in patients with direct pulmonary forms of these syndromes.
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