Background: Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is associated with high in-hospital mortality. Alveolar recruitment followed by ventilation at optimal titrated PEEP may reduce ventilator-induced lung injury and improve oxygenation in patients with ARDS, but the effects on mortality and other clinical outcomes remain unknown. This article reports the rationale, study design, and analysis plan of the Alveolar Recruitment for ARDS Trial (ART).
Methods/design: ART is a pragmatic, multicenter, randomized (concealed), controlled trial, which aims to determine if maximum stepwise alveolar recruitment associated with PEEP titration is able to increase 28-day survival in patients with ARDS compared to conventional treatment (ARDSNet strategy). We will enroll adult patients with ARDS of less than 72 h duration. The intervention group will receive an alveolar recruitment maneuver, with stepwise increases of PEEP achieving 45 cmH2O and peak pressure of 60 cmH2O, followed by ventilation with optimal PEEP titrated according to the static compliance of the respiratory system. In the control group, mechanical ventilation will follow a conventional protocol (ARDSNet). In both groups, we will use controlled volume mode with low tidal volumes (4 to 6 mL/kg of predicted body weight) and targeting plateau pressure ≤30 cmH2O. The primary outcome is 28-day survival, and the secondary outcomes are: length of ICU stay; length of hospital stay; pneumothorax requiring chest tube during first 7 days; barotrauma during first 7 days; mechanical ventilation-free days from days 1 to 28; ICU, in-hospital, and 6-month survival. ART is an event-guided trial planned to last until 520 events (deaths within 28 days) are observed. These events allow detection of a hazard ratio of 0.75, with 90% power and two-tailed type I error of 5%. All analysis will follow the intention-to-treat principle.
Discussion: If the ART strategy with maximum recruitment and PEEP titration improves 28-day survival, this will represent a notable advance to the care of ARDS patients. Conversely, if the ART strategy is similar or inferior to the current evidence-based strategy (ARDSNet), this should also change current practice as many institutions routinely employ recruitment maneuvers and set PEEP levels according to some titration method.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01374022.