Acute respiratory distress syndrome in a community hospital ICU


Objective: To estimate the incidence of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in an Australian urban community, and to describe the pattern of disease and outcomes in a community hospital intensive care unit (ICU). Setting: An eight-bed general ICU in a community hospital. Design: Retrospective chart review. Patients: 32 patients identified over a 4-year period as having ARDS. Measurements and results: The incidence of ARDS in an Australian urban community was estimated to be 7.3–9.3 cases/100 000 population per year. In-hospital mortality was 59 %, while ICU mortality was 47 %. Sepsis, pneumonia and aspiration were the main aetiological factors accounting for 94 % of the patient population. There was no trauma. The Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation and Murray scores and values for the ratio of the partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood and fractional inspired oxygen on admission to the ICU were similar between survivors and non-survivors, and none of these parameters were reliable predictors of outcome. Mean age, however, was different between survivors (56 ± 16 years) and non-survivors (69 ± 9 years) (p≤ 0.01). Mean daily fluid balance was also different between survivors (536 ± 545 ml/day) and non-survivors (1576 + 1255 ml/day) (p≤ 0.02). Haemodynamic data were collected on 21 of the 32 patients within 72 h of the onset of ARDS. None of the haemodynamic parameters reached significance. There was, however, a trend for better cardiac function and oxygen consumption in the survivors. Conclusions: These data show that for ARDS, at least, mortality outcome can be comparable in a community ICU to a tertiary referral institution. The pattern of disease in an urban Australian community hospital is different to that often reported from tertiary centres. The incidence of ARDS in an Australian urban community is comparable to the reported incidence in North America and Western Europe.

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Received: 29 April 1996 Accepted: 3 February 1997

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Nolan, S., Burgess, K., Hopper, L. et al. Acute respiratory distress syndrome in a community hospital ICU. Intensive Care Med 23, 530–538 (1997).

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  • Key words Fluid balance
  • ARDS incidence
  • Aetiology
  • Community ICU