Focused Management of Patients With Severe Acute Brain Injury and ARDS

Chest. 2022 Jan;161(1):140-151. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2021.08.066. Epub 2021 Sep 25.


Considering the COVID-19 pandemic where concomitant occurrence of ARDS and severe acute brain injury (sABI) has increasingly coemerged, we synthesize existing data regarding the simultaneous management of both conditions. Our aim is to provide readers with fundamental principles and concepts for the management of sABI and ARDS, and highlight challenges and conflicts encountered while managing concurrent disease. Up to 40% of patients with sABI can develop ARDS. Although there are trials and guidelines to support the mainstays of treatment for ARDS and sABI independently, guidance on concomitant management is limited. Treatment strategies aimed at managing severe ARDS may at times conflict with the management of sABI. In this narrative review, we discuss the physiological basis and risks involved during simultaneous management of ARDS and sABI, summarize evidence for treatment decisions, and demonstrate these principles using hypothetical case scenarios. Use of invasive or noninvasive monitoring to assess brain and lung physiology may facilitate goal-directed treatment strategies with the potential to improve outcome. Understanding the pathophysiology and key treatment concepts for comanagement of these conditions is critical to optimizing care in this high-acuity patient population.

Keywords: ARDS; acute brain injury; intensive care; intracranial hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / therapy*
  • COVID-19
  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / etiology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • SARS-CoV-2