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Race and gender differences in acute respiratory distress syndrome deaths in the United States: an analysis of multiple-cause mortality data (1979- 1996).

OBJECTIVE: Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a devastating clinical disorder that affects critically ill patients with a wide variety of underlying illnesses. Presently, there is limited population-based information concerning both the impact of ARDS on mortality, and the effects of race and gender on national ARDS mortality rates. In this study, we have attempted to evaluate trends over an 18-yr period in deaths associated with ARDS in the United States.

DESIGN: Case series.

PATIENTS: The Multiple-Cause Mortality Files compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics from 1979-1996 contains information on 38,263,780 decedents. We identified 333,004 decedents who had ARDS.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We calculated age-adjusted annual ARDS mortality rates. The annual age-adjusted mortality rate for ARDS initially increased from 1979 (5.0 deaths per 100,000 individuals) to 1993 (8.1 deaths per 100,000 individuals). From 1993 to 1996, the mortality rate for ARDS decreased significantly to 7.4 deaths per 100,000 individuals. Annual ARDS mortality rates have been continuously higher for men when compared with women and for African-Americans when compared with white decedents and decedents of other racial backgrounds. When decedents were stratified by race and gender, African-American men had the highest ARDS mortality rates in comparison to all other subgroups (mean annual mortality rate of 12.8 deaths per 100,000 African-American men).

CONCLUSIONS: Although the annual ARDS mortality rate is slowly declining in the United States, significant race and gender differences in ARDS mortality exist.

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