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June 20, 2012

The Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: What's in a Name?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr Angus is also Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2012;307(23):2542-2544. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6761

Defining a syndrome or disease in the absence of unambiguous clinical and pathological findings is a vexing yet essential challenge in medicine. Any proposed definition will be somewhat arbitrary and open to dispute. However, failure to agree on a definition will leave clinicians and researchers rudderless. Without a unified definition of a disease, it is difficult to conduct epidemiologic studies, to assess the benefits and harms of potential therapies, and ultimately to care for patients.