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A 29-Year-Old Male with a Fatal Case of COVID-19 Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (CARDS) and Ventilator-Induced Lung Injury (VILI)

Smit S. Deliwala, Anoosha Ponnapalli, Elfateh Seedahmed, Mohammed Berrou, Ghassan Bachuwa, Arul Chandran

(Department of Internal Medicine, Michigan State University at Hurley Medical Center, Flint, MI, USA)

Am J Case Rep 2020; 21:e926136

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.926136


BACKGROUND: COVID-19 patients that develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) “CARDS” behave differently compared to patients with classic forms of ARDS. Recently 2 CARDS phenotypes have been described, Type L and Type H. Most patients stabilize at the milder form, Type L, while an unknown subset progress to Type H, resembling full-blown ARDS. If uncorrected, phenotypic conversion can induce a rapid downward spiral towards progressive lung injury, vasoplegia, and pulmonary shrinkage, risking ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI) known as the “VILI vortex”. No cases of in-hospital phenotypic conversion have been reported, while ventilation strategies in these patients differ from the lung-protective approaches seen in classic ARDS.
CASE REPORT: A 29-year old male was admitted with COVID-19 pneumonia complicated by severe ARDS, multi-organ failure, cytokine release syndrome, and coagulopathy during his admission. He initially resembled CARDS Type L case, although refractory hypoxemia, fevers, and a high viral burden prompted conversion to Type H within 8 days. Despite ventilation strategies, neuromuscular blockade, inhalation therapy, and vitamin C, he remained asynchronous to the ventilator with volumes and pressures beyond accepted thresholds, eventually developing a fatal tension pneumothorax.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients that convert to Type H can quickly enter a spiral of hypoxemia, shunting, and dead-space ventilation towards full-blown ARDS. Understanding its nuances is vital to interrupting phenotypic conversion and entry into VILI vortex. Tension pneumothorax represents a poor outcome in patients with CARDS. Further research into monitoring lung dynamics, modifying ventilation strategies, and understanding response to various modes of ventilation in CARDS are required to mitigate these adverse outcomes.

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