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A. How a Simple Adjustment May Save Thousands of Lives

Narrator: This is Science Today. A national, clinical trial has found thousands of lives may be saved by simply adjusting a mechanical ventilator that supplies air to patients suffering from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS. Dr. Michael Matthay of the University of California, San Francisco who led the ten-city study, says ARDS is a severe type of respiratory failure in which the lungs fill with fluid.

Matthay: There are probably about sixty to eighty thousand people a year dying from ARDS. And the number of breast cancer deaths each year is forty-three thousand, so it's a major health care problem.

Narrator: Matthay and his colleagues cut the mortality rate down by 22 percent after re-setting the mechanical ventilators and giving patients shorter, oxygen-rich puffs of air, rather than the larger volumes previously given.

Matthay: The savings should be remarkable because in addition to reducing mortality, the study showed that the duration of time the patient spends on the ventilator, on the breathing machine is reduced also.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.