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Online ISSN 1827-1596
Lai P. S. 1, Mita C. 2, Thompson B. T. 1
1 Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA;
2 Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA
Elevated pulmonary arterial pressures appear to be a prominent feature of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Current clinical guidelines for the management of ARDS do not specifically address treatment of pulmonary hypertension or associated right ventricular dysfunction because the clinical significance of this entity remains unclear. Interpretation of elevated pulmonary arterial pressures, pulmonary vascular resistance, and transpulmonary gradient as well as signs of right ventricular dysfunction is confounded by the effects of positive pressure ventilation. There does not appear to be a consistent relationship between the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension or right ventricular failure and mortality in patients with ARDS, but it is unclear if right ventricular failure contributes to the mortality risk per se or if the underlying cause of pulmonary hypertension, including intravascular micro and macro thrombosis, are simply markers for systemic dysregulation of coagulation and fibrinolysis that may lead to multiorgan failure in ARDS. While studies of pulmonary vasodilator therapies have not shown a mortality benefit in ARDS, such trials have targeted improved oxygenation rather than improved pulmonary hemodynamics so that the possible contribution of improved right ventricular function to better outcomes has not been directly tested in large trials. Future studies are needed to determine if treatment of pulmonary hypertension and associated right ventricular dysfunction will affect mortality in patients with ARDS.