The common practice of overinflating the lungs to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is called into question by a new report.

According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, reducing the amount of mechanical ventilation to half the traditionally accepted volume reduces mortality by 22 per cent in patients with ARDS.

The trial involved 861 patients with acute lung injury and ARDS, who were randomised into two groups to receive either the traditional treatment volume or treatment using 50 per cent less inflation of the lungs. The trial was stopped early when it was discovered that mortality in the low volume group was significantly lower than in the traditionally treated group.

ARDS affects approximately 100,00 to 150,000 people each year in the US alone, with mortality rates approaching 50 per cent. More people die each year from ARDS than from breast cancer and, by using this new low volume rate of ventilation, the researchers estimate that 20,000 American lives could be saved each year (Lancet, 2000; 355: 1621).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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