Lung neutrophils in the adult respiratory distress syndrome. Clinical and pathophysiologic significance

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1986 Feb;133(2):218-25. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1986.133.2.218.


Although neutrophils are of pathogenetic importance in various animal models of acute lung injury, their role in the adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is unclear. To study the significance of lung neutrophils in this disorder, patients with ARDS (n = 11) were evaluated by bronchoalveolar lavage within 24 h of admission to the intensive care unit. Patients with non-ARDS respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation (n = 4) and normal volunteers (n = 12) were also studied. Neutrophils constituted 67.6 +/- 9.8% of recovered lavage cells in patients with ARDS compared with only 4.0 +/- 2.4% of cells in mechanically ventilated control patients and 0.8 +/- 0.2% in normal volunteers (p less than 0.005, both comparisons). Furthermore, in patients with ARDS (n = 6) evaluated serially by bronchoalveolar lavage at 72-h intervals, neutrophil percentages decreased from 91 +/- 3.2% (initial lavage) to 42.8 +/- 12% (final lavage) (p less than 0.005). Lung neutrophils also predicted the severity of abnormalities in gas exchange and lung protein permeability. That is, the percentage of neutrophils correlated directly with the alveolar-arterial Po2 difference (r = 0.69, p less than 0.01) and lavage fluid total protein concentrations (r = 0.62, p less than 0.01). Because large numbers of lung neutrophils were present in these patients, ARDS lavage fluid was assayed for neutrophil mediators relevant to the pathogenesis of acute lung injury. Neutrophil elastase activity was not detected in any ARDS lavages, although elastase was antigenically present in most samples and appeared to be complexed to alpha-1-antitrypsin. In contrast to elastase, neutrophil collagenase was readily detectable in ARDS fluid.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chemotactic Factors / analysis
  • Humans
  • Lung / analysis
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / analysis
  • Neutrophils / pathology*
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Pancreatic Elastase / metabolism
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / enzymology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / pathology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Therapeutic Irrigation


  • Chemotactic Factors
  • Peroxidase
  • Pancreatic Elastase