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Effects of pulmonary acid aspiration on the lungs and extra-pulmonary organs: a randomized study in pigs.

Crit Care 2012 Dec 12;16(2):R35. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

Department of Anaesthesiology, Emergency and Intensive Care Medicine, University of Göttingen Medical Center, Robert-Koch-Straße 40, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.

Introduction: There is mounting evidence that injury to one organ causes indirect damage to other organ systems with increased morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of acid aspiration pneumonitis (AAP) on extrapulmonary organs and to test the hypothesis that these could be due to circulatory depression or hypoxemia.

Methods: Mechanically ventilated anesthetized pigs were randomized to receive intrabronchial instillation of hydrochloric acid (n = 7) or no treatment (n = 7). Hydrochloric acid (0.1 N, pH 1.1, 2.5 ml/kg BW) was instilled into the lungs during the inspiratory phase of ventilation. Hemodynamics, respiratory function and computer tomography (CT) scans of lung and brain were followed over a four-hour period. Tissue samples of lung, heart, liver, kidney and hippocampus were collected at the end of the experiment.

Results: Acid instillation caused pulmonary edema, measured as increased extravascular lung water index (ELWI), impaired gas exchange and increased mean pulmonary artery pressure. Gas exchange tended to improve during the course of the study, despite increasing ELWI. In AAP animals compared to controls we found: a) cardiac leukocyte infiltration and necrosis in the conduction system and myocardium; b) lymphocyte infiltration in the liver, spreading from the periportal zone with prominent areas of necrosis; c) renal inflammation with lymphocyte infiltration, edema and necrosis in the proximal and distal tubules; and d) a tendency towards more severe hippocampal damage (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: Acid aspiration pneumonitis induces extrapulmonary organ injury. Circulatory depression and hypoxemia are unlikely causative factors. ELWI is a sensitive bedside parameter of early lung damage.

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December 2012
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