Acute lung injury (ALI) is more common and even more deadly than previous reports suggested, according to a new study. A syndrome consisting of acute hypoxemic respiratory failure with bilateral pulmonary infiltrates, ALI is associated with both pneumonia and nonpulmonary risk factors. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a subtype of ALI characterized by more severe hypoxemia.
Researchers tallied clinical outcomes among 1,113 patients in King County, Wash., in a 15-month period. The patients, age 15 and older, were all being treated with mechanical ventilation for ALI. The overall in-hospital death rate from ALI was 38.5%. Incidence and mortality increased with age. Mortality ranged from 24% for patients ages 15 through 19 to 60% for those age 85 or more. The researchers estimate that ALI accounts for more than 74,000 deaths and 3.6 million hospital days each year.