Acute respiratory distress syndrome is a complex group of signs and symptoms caused by direct or indirect lung injury. In spite of decades of research, it is still associated with a high mortality rate. Pathogenesis of this disease is related to alveolar endothelial and epithelial cell injury and associated release and sequestration of inflammatory mediators and cells, including cytokines and neutrophils, respectively. Pharmacologic interventions have been largely unsuccessful, and ventilation strategies to support oxygenation while limiting ventilator associated lung injury have not demonstrated any significant reductions in the mortality rate. However, novel therapies are in development, based on the knowledge of the pathologic processes of acute respiratory distress syndrome. In this article an overview of the disease process and mediator involvement is presented, followed by a review of pharmacologic and ventilation treatments currently in use or under study.

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