Dexamethasone in ARDS: DEXA-ARDS Trial Improved Outcomes

This is a big impactful study looking at administering Dexamethasone to patients with ARDS. I’m happy it came out, really happy. To start off a big hat tip to my colleagues in España who put this together. ARDS sucks. It’s a b-word to treat and patients spend a frustratingly long time to come off of the vent. Mortality rates are high. Morbidity rates are through the roof. Cost burden to the healthcare system is insane. The repercussions are unquantifiable. Many of these people never even return to work.

In my practice, when I have a patient with ARDS, I make sure to treat the underlying cause, protect their lungs with the vent, keep them as dry as humanly possible, and provide them with 4 days of vitamin C, hydrocortisone, and thiamine. The CITRIS-ALI study providing vitamin C showed a decrease in mortality in this population, less time in the ICU, and less time in the hospital (albeit with many caveats to that study). There’s bench research that shows how vitamin C and corticosteroids are synergistic in preventing and repairing lipopolysaccharide-induced pulmonary endothelial barrier dysfunction. But we never had good data regarding giving these patients steroids to begin with. In theory it made sense, but we needed more help. We were simply doing our best and shrugging our shoulders in many of these cases.

Enter the DEXA-ARDS trial. They randomized patients with moderate to severe ARDS to either get dexamethasone or placebo. Note that they give the first dose immediately after randomization, something that they waited 12+ hours to do in the VITAMINS trial. I digress. Not bitter. Okay I’m bitter. Nonetheless, the pts who got steroids did better. They came off the vent quicker and had fewer deaths. Both statistically significant. One of the key takeaways regarding the vent free days is that we start thinking to trach pts around day 10-14. The dexamethasone group got off the vent around day 14. The control group around day 20. How many trachs were spared and the morbidity that comes with that? It’s not specified in the article but I’m curious. Another key piece is the fact that there was no increase in side effects of the steroids.

Ultimately this trial is changing my practice. I was perhaps stopping steroids too early in the past.


Villar J, Ferrando C, Martínez D, Ambrós A, Muñoz T, Soler JA, Aguilar G, Alba F, González-Higueras E, Conesa LA, Martín-Rodríguez C, Díaz-Domínguez FJ, Serna-Grande P, Rivas R, Ferreres J, Belda J, Capilla L, Tallet A, Añón JM, Fernández RL, González-Martín JM; dexamethasone in ARDS network. Dexamethasone treatment for the acute respiratory distress syndrome: a multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet Respir Med. 2020 Mar;8(3):267-276. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(19)30417-5. Epub 2020 Feb 7. PMID: 32043986.
Link to Article (NOT FREE)

Chaudhuri D, Sasaki K, Karkar A, Sharif S, Lewis K, Mammen MJ, Alexander P, Ye Z, Lozano LEC, Munch MW, Perner A, Du B, Mbuagbaw L, Alhazzani W, Pastores SM, Marshall J, Lamontagne F, Annane D, Meduri GU, Rochwerg B. Corticosteroids in COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 ARDS: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Intensive Care Med. 2021 May;47(5):521-537. doi: 10.1007/s00134-021-06394-2. Epub 2021 Apr 19. PMID: 33876268; PMCID: PMC8054852.
Link to Article

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