Rationale: Pulmonary coagulopathy may play a pathogenetic role in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), by contributing to alveolocapillary inflammation and increased permeability. Recombinant human activated protein C (rh-APC) may inhibit this process and thereby improve patient outcome.
Methods: A prospective randomized, saline-controlled, single-blinded clinical trial was performed in the intensive care units of two university hospitals, and patients with ARDS were included within 24 h after meeting inclusion criteria.
Intervention: A 4-day course of intravenous rh-APC (24 mcg/kg/h) (n = 33) versus saline (n = 38).
Outcomes: The primary outcome parameter was the pulmonary leak index (PLI) of 67Gallium-transferrin as a measure of alveolocapillary permeability and secondary outcomes were disease severity scores and ventilator-free days, among others.
Results: Baseline characteristics were similar; in 87% of patients the PLI was above normal and in 90% mechanical or non-invasive ventilation was instituted at a median lung injury score of 2.5. There was no evidence that Rh-APC treatment affected the PLI or attenuated lung injury and sequential organ failure assessment scores. Mean ventilator-free days amounted to 14 (rh-APC) and 12 days (saline, P = 0.35). 28-day mortality was 6% in rh-APC- and 18% in saline-treated patients (P = 0.12). There was no difference in bleeding events. The study was prematurely discontinued because rh-APC was withdrawn from the market.
Conclusion: There is no evidence that treatment with intravenous rh-APC during 4 days for infectious or inflammatory ARDS ameliorates increased alveolocapillary permeability or the clinical course of ARDS patients. We cannot exclude underpowering.
Trial registration: Nederlands Trial Register ISRCTN 52566874.