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Acute lung injury in paediatric intensive care: course and outcome


Acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) carry a high morbidity and mortality (10-90%). ALI is characterised by non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema and refractory hypoxaemia of multifactorial aetiology [1]. There is limited data about outcome particularly in children.


This retrospective cohort study of 85 randomly selected patients with respiratory failure recruited from a prospectively collected database represents 7.1% of 1187 admissions. They include those treated with High Frequency Oscillation Ventilation (HFOV). The patients were admitted between 1 November 1998 and 31 October 2000.


Of the 85, 49 developed acute lung injury and 47 had ARDS. There were 26 males and 23 females with a median age and weight of 7.7 months (range 1 day-12.8 years) and 8 kg (range 0.8-40 kg). There were 7 deaths giving a crude mortality of 14.3%, all of which fulfilled the Consensus I [1] criteria for ARDS. Pulmonary occlusion pressures were not routinely measured. The A-a gradient and PaO2/FiO2 ratio (median + [95% CI]) were 37.46 [31.82-43.1] kPa and 19.12 [15.26-22.98] kPa respectively. The non-survivors had a significantly lower PaO2/FiO2 ratio (13 [6.07-19.93] kPa) compared to survivors (23.85 [19.57-28.13] kPa) (P = 0.03) and had a higher A-a gradient (51.05 [35.68-66.42] kPa) compared to survivors (36.07 [30.2-41.94]) kPa though not significant (P = 0.06). Twenty-nine patients (59.2%) were oscillated (Sensormedics 3100A) including all 7 non-survivors. There was no difference in ventilation requirements for CMV prior to oscillation. Seventeen of the 49 (34.7%) were treated with Nitric Oxide including 5 out of 7 non-survivors (71.4%). The median (95% CI) number of failed organs was 3 (1.96-4.04) for non-survivors compared to 1 (0.62-1.62) for survivors (P = 0.03). There were 27 patients with isolated respiratory failure all of whom survived. Six (85.7%) of the non-survivors also required cardiovascular support.


A crude mortality of 14.3% compares favourably to published data. The A-a gradient and PaO2/FiO2 ratio may be of help in morbidity scoring in paediatric ARDS. Use of Nitric Oxide and HFOV is associated with increased mortality, which probably relates to the severity of disease. Multiple organ failure particularly respiratory and cardiac disease is associated with increased mortality. ARDS with isolated respiratory failure carries a good prognosis in children.


  1. 1.

    Bernard GR, Artigas A, Brigham KL: The American-European Consensus Conference on ARDS. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1994, 149: 818-824.

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Gupta, S., Chimbira, W., Watkins, S. et al. Acute lung injury in paediatric intensive care: course and outcome. Crit Care 5, P234 (2001).

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  • Nitric Oxide
  • Respiratory Failure
  • Failed Organ
  • Pulmonary Oedema
  • Acute Lung Injury