Pathophysiology of Brain Injury and Neurological Outcome in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: A Scoping Review of Preclinical to Clinical Studies

Merry Huang, Aron Gedansky, Catherine E. Hassett, Carrie Price, Tracey H. Fan, R. Scott Stephens, Paul Nyquist, Ken Uchino, Sung Min Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) has been associated with secondary acute brain injury (ABI). However, there is sparse literature on the mechanism of lung-mediated brain injury and prevalence of ARDS-associated secondary ABI. We aimed to review and elucidate potential mechanisms of ARDS-mediated ABI from preclinical models and assess the prevalence of ABI and neurological outcome in ARDS with clinical studies. We conducted a systematic search of PubMed and five other databases reporting ABI and ARDS through July 6, 2020 and included studies with ABI and neurological outcome occurring after ARDS. We found 38 studies (10 preclinical studies with 143 animals; 28 clinical studies with 1175 patients) encompassing 9 animal studies (n = 143), 1 in vitro study, 12 studies on neurocognitive outcomes (n = 797), 2 clinical observational studies (n = 126), 1 neuroimaging study (n = 15), and 13 clinical case series/reports (n = 15). Six ARDS animal studies demonstrated evidence of neuroinflammation and neuronal damage within the hippocampus. Five animal studies demonstrated altered cerebral blood flow and increased intracranial pressure with the use of lung-protective mechanical ventilation. High frequency of ARDS-associated secondary ABI or poor neurological outcome was observed ranging 82–86% in clinical observational studies. Of the clinically reported ABIs (median age 49 years, 46% men), the most common injury was hemorrhagic stroke (25%), followed by hypoxic ischemic brain injury (22%), diffuse cerebral edema (11%), and ischemic stroke (8%). Cognitive impairment in patients with ARDS (n = 797) was observed in 87% (range 73–100%) at discharge, 36% (range 32–37%) at 6 months, and 30% (range 25–45%) at 1 year. Mechanisms of ARDS-associated secondary ABI include primary hypoxic ischemic injury from hypoxic respiratory failure, secondary injury, such as lung injury induced neuroinflammation, and increased intracranial pressure from ARDS lung-protective mechanical ventilation strategy. In summary, paucity of clinical data exists on the prevalence of ABI in patients with ARDS. Hemorrhagic stroke and hypoxic ischemic brain injury were commonly observed. Persistent cognitive impairment was highly prevalent in patients with ARDS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-527
Number of pages10
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Acute brain injury
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Lung-brain interaction
  • Neurological outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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