Several acute and chronic conditions that alter the integrity of the pulmonary epithelium increased the rate of absorption or clearance into the circulation of small solutes deposited in the alveoli. Technetium 99m diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid can be deposited in the lungs as a submicronic aerosol and its rate of clearance measured with a gamma camera or simple probe. This clearance technique is currently being used to evaluate patients who have developed pulmonary edema and also to detect those patients from a high risk group who are likely to develop adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Its role in the evaluation of patients with pulmonary edema is still under active investigation. It is clear that a single measurement in patients who smoke is not useful, but repeated measurements may provide important information. The lung clearance measurement is very sensitive to changes in epithelial integrity but is not specific for ARDS. It may be most useful in combination with other predictive tests or when the clearance rate is normal.
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