Estimated 190,000 Americans suffer from the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) each year because of complications from conditions such as a major infection or severe injuries.

Those conditions can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs that cuts oxygen flow to the blood. The effect on the heart, liver, kidney and other organs is severe enough to kill 30 percent to 60 percent of ARDS patients.
The U.S. government-sponsored study sought to answer two questions: When monitoring a patient's condition, is it better to use a long catheter, which is a tube threaded into the heart, or a shorter catheter? And should intravenous fluids be provided in abundance or sparingly?

The answers, based on a study of 1,000 patients in 20 medical centers across the country, favor the use of the shorter catheter and less fluid.
Patients who get more conservative fluid treatment come off the ventilator faster and leave the intensive care unit faster. And that translates to better outcomes for the patients, but also is of economic importance.

The study also showed a slight improvement in survival, 3 percent, in patients getting less fluid, but not enough to reach statistical significance.