Modalities of fluid management in patients sustaining the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are challenging and controversial. Optimal fluid management should provide adequate oxygen delivery to the body, while avoiding inadvertent increase in lung edema which further impairs gas exchange. In ARDS patients, positive fluid balance has been associated with prolonged mechanical ventilation, longer ICU and hospital stay, and higher mortality. Accordingly, a restrictive strategy has been compared to a more liberal approach in randomized controlled trials conducted in various clinical settings. Restrictive strategies included fluid restriction guided by the monitoring of extravascular lung water, pulmonary capillary wedge or central venous pressure, and furosemide targeted to diuresis and/or albumin replacement in hypoproteinemic patients. Overall, restrictive strategies improved oxygenation significantly and reduced duration of mechanical ventilation, but had no significant effect on mortality. Fluid management may require different approaches depending on the time course of ARDS (i.e., early vs. late period). The effects of fluid strategy management according to ARDS phenotypes remain to be evaluated. Since ARDS is frequently associated with sepsis-induced acute circulatory failure, the prediction of fluid responsiveness is crucial in these patients to avoid hemodynamically inefficient-hence respiratory detrimental-fluid administration. Specific hemodynamic indices of fluid responsiveness or mini-fluid challenges should be preferably used. Since the positive airway pressure contributes to positive fluid balance in ventilated ARDS patients, it should be kept as low as possible. As soon as the hemodynamic status is stabilized, correction of cumulated fluid retention may rely on diuretics administration or renal replacement therapy.
Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome; Fluid therapies; Prognosis; Pulmonary edema; Water–electrolyte balance.