Steroids do not prolong survival in intensive care patients with ARDS on life support

Corticosteroids do not improve survival in patients with late-stage acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), according to new results from the ARDS Clinical Research Network of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study is the first multi-center randomized clinical trial to evaluate the effects of moderate doses of steroids in ARDS patients when treatment is started 7 days or more after the onset of the condition.

ARDS is a sudden, life-threatening lung condition that affects about 150,000 people in the United States each year. ARDS develops in patients who are critically ill with other diseases such as pneumonia or sepsis (severe and widespread bacterial infection), or who have sustained major injuries that result in severe fluid building up in both lungs, leading to breathing failure. An estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of ARDS patients die. Results of the Late Steroid Rescue Study appear in the April 20, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"These findings provide important information to help us determine the safest and most effective ways to care for patients with this devastating condition," said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD. "Whether and how to use steroids to treat ARDS patients have been important questions for years. We now have better evidence of the effect of this treatment to help clinicians and patients make more informed decisions."

There is no specific drug treatment for ARDS. The focus of care is to get enough oxygen into the blood until the lungs are functioning again. Patients are placed in the intensive care unit and supported with mechanical ventilators and fluids. Some patients recover and can breathe on their own within a week or so. Others might need to be on mechanical support to help with breathing for longer periods of time, but they can develop long-term complications from ventilator use or other treatments. '"/>

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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