Purpose of review: This article discusses recently published articles reporting the incidence and outcome of patients with the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This is a difficult task since there is a marked variability regarding the methodology of the few, large epidemiological, and observational studies on ARDS.
Recent findings: The review will mainly focus on publications from the past 18 months. We have reviewed new epidemiological studies reporting population-based incidence of ARDS. Also, we have reviewed the data on survival reported in observational and randomized controlled trials, discussed how the current ARDS definition modifies the true incidence of ARDS, and briefly mentioned recent approaches that appear to improve ARDS outcome.
Summary: On the basis of current evidence, it seems that the incidence and overall hospital mortality of ARDS has not changed substantially in the last decade. Independent of the definition used for identification of ARDS patients, reported population-based incidence of ARDS is an order of magnitude lower in Europe than in the USA. Current hospital mortality of combined moderate and severe ARDS reported in observational studies is greater than 40%.