Although one would predict that surfactant replacement therapy would be effective in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a recent large trial proved unsuccessful, possibly reflecting the nature of the surfactant used. Given the importance of the unique proteins in the action of surfactant, these would seem vital components of any exogenous surfactant. The ability to identify patients at risk of ARDS and to characterise their surfactant might allow prophylactic treatment with a nebulised, complementary, tailor-made preparation of surfactant. Advanced cases might undergo bronchoscopic focal lavage to remove plasma proteins and inflammatory mediators prior to focal instillation of surfactant to areas of greatest need. Ventilation regimens might be adjusted both to minimise trauma and to conserve endogenous surfactant.
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