Purpose of review: Although results from clinical trials have advanced the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), mortality remains high. More recently, focus has shifted from treatment of ARDS to early identification and prevention in at-risk populations.
Recent findings: There have been 30 published and registered clinical trials with either the primary or secondary goal of reducing ARDS.
Summary: With this change in paradigm, come additional challenges and consideration in study design that depends not only on the intervention but also whether the intervention aims for a primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention of ARDS that targets a patient population for universal, selective, or indicated prevention. These epidemiologic concepts of prevention in public health also apply to ARDS and are relevant to the study population to target, the timing of the intervention relative to critical illness, the study design and outcomes to measure in an ARDS prevention study. This shift in focus is reflected by the new National Heart Lung Blood Institute Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury network, and signifies an overall movement away from reacting to and supporting acute organ failure after it is established to early detection and prevention in acute critical illness wherever and whenever it may occur.