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Imaging the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Past, Present and Future

Bitker L, Talmor D, Richard JC.

Intensive Care Med. 2022 Aug;48(8):995-1008

In patients with the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), lung imaging is a fundamental tool in the study of the morphological and mechanistic features of the lungs. Chest computed tomography studies led to major advances in the understanding of ARDS physiology. They allowed the in vivo study of the syndrome’s lung features in relation with its impact on respiratory physiology and physiology, but also explored the lungs’ response to mechanical ventilation, be it alveolar recruitment or ventilator-induced lung injuries. Coupled with positron emission tomography, morphological findings were put in relation with ventilation, perfusion or acute lung inflammation. Lung imaging has always been central in the care of patients with ARDS, with modern point-of-care tools such as electrical impedance tomography or lung ultrasounds guiding clinical reasoning beyond macro-respiratory mechanics. Finally, artificial intelligence and machine learning now assist imaging post-processing software, which allows real-time analysis of quantitative parameters that describe the syndrome’s complexity. This narrative review aims to draw a didactic and comprehensive picture of how modern imaging techniques improved our understanding of the syndrome, and have the potential to help the clinician guide ventilatory treatment and refine patient prognostication.

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