Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
(ARDS; Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome; Non-cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema)
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a form of severe lung damage. It happens in people who are very ill or hurt. It can be deadly.
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Direct injuries that may lead to ARDS are:
- Sepsis of the lungs
- Breathing regurgitated stomach matter
- A bruise of the lung
- Breathing smoke or certain chemicals
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Indirect injuries that may lead to ARDS are:
The health problems above raise the risk of ARDS.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Lung disease
- Alcohol use disorder
Symptoms may start slowly or all at once. A person may have:
- Problems breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Bluish skin or fingernail color
- Chest pain
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
- Low oxygen levels
- Signs of heart failure
Pictures will be taken of the chest. This can be done with:
The underlying cause will be treated.
The goal of treatment is to help a person breathe. This may be done with:
- Mechanical ventilation—a machine moves air in and out of the lungs
- Non-invasive mask mechanical ventilation—a mask delivers air from a ventilator to the lungs
- Oxygen therapy—a mask or tube delivers oxygen through the nose
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)—advanced breathing and heart support (not as common)
ARDS cannot be prevented.
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome-ards.
- Meyer, N.J., Gattinoni, L., et al. Acute respiratory distress syndrome. Lancet, 2021; 398 (10300): 622-637.
- What is acute respiratory distress syndrome? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/ards.
- James P. Cornell, MD
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