Although significant progress has been made in the treatment of patients with acute lung failure in the critical care setting, the mortality rate from acute lung injury and ARDS is unacceptably high, given the numbers of patients treated for these syndromes each year. The improved understanding of the pathophysiology of respiratory failure from basic science and clinical research is reflected in improved survival rates over the years. Advances in the mechanical ventilator (through microprocessor technology); biosurface technology; liquid ventilation; and in some cases, returning to so-called 'antiquated' practices of patient care (e.g., prone positioning) seem to have had an impact nonetheless. As refinement continues to occur in these areas, morbidity and mortality from lung failure will have a lesser impact on patients as physicians treat the consequences of organ failure in the ICU.
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