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Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Clinical review: Early treatment of acute lung injury - paradigm shift toward prevention and treatment prior to respiratory failure

Joseph E Levitt1* and Michael A Matthay2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pulmonary/Critical Care, Stanford University, 300 Pasteur Drive, MC 5236 Stanford, CA 94305, USA

2 Departments of Medicine and Anesthesia, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, Moffitt Hospital, 505 Parnasssus Ave, M-917, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA

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Critical Care 2012, 16:223  doi:10.1186/cc11144

Published: 19 June 2012


Acute lung injury (ALI) remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in critically ill patients. Despite improved understanding of the pathogenesis of ALI, supportive care with a lung protective strategy of mechanical ventilation remains the only treatment with a proven survival advantage. Most clinical trials in ALI have targeted mechanically ventilated patients. Past trials of pharmacologic agents may have failed to demonstrate efficacy in part due to the resultant delay in initiation of therapy until several days after the onset of lung injury. Improved early identification of at-risk patients provides new opportunities for risk factor modification to prevent the development of ALI and novel patient groups to target for early treatment of ALI before progression to the need for mechanical ventilation. This review will discuss current strategies that target prevention of ALI and some of the most promising pharmacologic agents for early treatment of ALI prior to the onset of respiratory failure that requires mechanical ventilation.