Optimal fluid management in patients with acute lung injury is unknown. Diuresis or fluid restriction may improve lung function but could jeopardize extrapulmonary-organ perfusion.
In a randomized study, we compared a conservative and a liberal strategy of fluid management using explicit protocols applied for seven days in 1000 patients with acute lung injury. The primary end point was death at 60 days. Secondary end points included the number of ventilator-free days and organ-failure-free days and measures of lung physiology.
The rate of death at 60 days was 25.5 percent in the conservative-strategy group and 28.4 percent in the liberal-strategy group (P=0.30; 95 percent confidence interval for the difference, -2.6 to 8.4 percent). The mean (+/-SE) cumulative fluid balance during the first seven days was -136+/-491 ml in the conservative-strategy group and 6992+/-502 ml in the liberal-strategy group (P<0.001). As compared with the liberal strategy, the conservative strategy improved the oxygenation index ([mean airway pressure x the ratio of the fraction of inspired oxygen to the partial pressure of arterial oxygen]x100) and the lung injury score and increased the number of ventilator-free days (14.6+/-0.5 vs. 12.1+/-0.5, P<0.001) and days not spent in the intensive care unit (13.4+/-0.4 vs. 11.2+/-0.4, P<0.001) during the first 28 days but did not increase the incidence or prevalence of shock during the study or the use of dialysis during the first 60 days (10 percent vs. 14 percent, P=0.06).
Although there was no significant difference in the primary outcome of 60-day mortality, the conservative strategy of fluid management improved lung function and shortened the duration of mechanical ventilation and intensive care without increasing nonpulmonary-organ failures. These results support the use of a conservative strategy of fluid management in patients with acute lung injury. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00281268 [ClinicalTrials.gov].).