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The incidence of ARDS, interim results of the East Anglian ARDS Registry

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There is a wide variation in the reported incidence of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to the use of different diagnostic criteria. The publication by the American European Consensus Conference in 1994 of diagnostic criteria for ARDS has made comparisons of the incidence of ARDS more reliable. Only one study has looked at the incidence of ARDS in the UK. This was a retrospective survey in 1988 [1] that reported an incidence of 4.5/100 000 population/year.


We report a prospective observational study of the incidence of ARDS in 10 ICUs in 9 hospitals covering a population of 1.89 million people over the age of 15 years. The consensus conference criteria were used to diagnose ARDS. Acute onset was defined as occurring within five days of onset of illness. A study co-ordinator in each participating ICU identified patients and there was regular feedback from the study organisers to ensure all cases were identified.

Results and discussion

Over the first 10 months of data collection, 68 patients met the criteria for the diagnosis of ARDS, giving an incidence of ARDS of 4.3/100 000 population/year. The mean age was 50.9 years. The mean length of stay on ICU of survivors was 16.9 days and 7.8 days for non-survivors, the intensive care mortality was 38%. These interim results give an incidence of ARDS that is similar to that reported by the previous UK study and recent studies from other countries [2]. This figure would now appear to be a more accurate estimate of the incidence of ARDS in an unselected population. The study is ongoing and it is planned to follow up the survivors on a long-term basis.


  1. Webster NR, Cohen AT, Nunn JF: ARDS, how many cases in the UK? Anaesthesia 1988, 43: 923-926.

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  2. Valta P, Uusaro A, Nunes S, et al.: Acute respiratory distress syndrome: frequency, clinical course and costs of care. Crit Care Med 1999, 27: 2367-2374. 10.1097/00003246-199911000-00008

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Dixon, J., Gunning, K. The incidence of ARDS, interim results of the East Anglian ARDS Registry. Crit Care 4 (Suppl 1), P130 (2000).

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