Clinical Implications of Basic Research

Lung Edema Clearance: Relevance to Patients with Lung Injury

Zaher S. Azzam and Jacob I. Sznajder


Pulmonary edema clearance is necessary for patients with lung injury to recover and survive. The mechanisms regulating edema clearance from the lungs are distinct from the factors contributing edema formation during injury. Edema clearance is effected via vectorial transport of Na+ out of the airspaces which generates an osmotic gradient causing water to follow the gradient out of the cells. This Na+ transport across the alveolar epithelium is mostly effected via apical Na+ and chloride channels and basolateral Na,K-ATPase. The Na,K-ATPase pumps Na+ out of the cell and K+ into the cell against their respective gradients in an ATP-consuming reaction. Two mechanisms contribute to the regulation of the Na,K-ATPase activity:recruitment of its subunits from intracellular compartments into the basolateral membrane, and transcriptional/translational regulation. Na,K-ATPase activity and edema clearance are increased by catecholamines, aldosterone, vasopressin, overexpression of the pump genes, and others. During lung injury, mechanisms regulating edema clearance are inhibited by yet unclear pathways. Better understanding of the mechanisms that regulate pulmonary edema clearance may lead to therapeutic interventions that counterbalance the inhibition of edema clearance during lung injury and improve the lungs’ ability to clear fluid, which is crucial for patient survival.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2015;6(3):e0025