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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome, is a lung condition that leads to low oxygen levels in the blood. ARDS can be life threatening because your body's organs need oxygen-rich blood to work well.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome, is a lung condition that leads to low oxygen levels in the blood. ARDS can be life threatening because your body's organs need oxygen-rich blood to work well.

People who develop ARDS often are very ill with another disease or have major injuries. They might already be in the hospital when they develop ARDS.

Overview

To understand ARDS, it helps to understand how the lungs work. When you breathe, air passes through your nose and mouth into your windpipe. The air then travels to your lungs' air sacs. These sacs are called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye).

Small blood vessels called capillaries (KAP-ih-lare-ees) run through the walls of the air sacs. Oxygen passes from the air sacs into the capillaries and then into the bloodstream. Blood carries the oxygen to all parts of the body, including the body's organs.

In ARDS, infections, injuries, or other conditions... Read more about Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Aerosolized prostacyclin for acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

The clinical research is insufficient to support the routine use of inhaled prostacyclin for acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome in critically ill children or adults with low blood oxygen levels. Acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are critical respiratory conditions that are triggered by respiratory viral infections or develop following burns, massive transfusions, multiple trauma, aspiration of gastric contents, pancreatitis, inhalation injury, sepsis, drug overdose and near drowning.

Recruitment manoeuvres compared to standard care for treatment of acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome.

A ventilated patient with acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome may be given a recruitment manoeuvre to open lung units that are collapsed. This is done by using a pressure that is higher than a normal breath for a longer period of time than is required for a normal breath. The effects of recruitment manoeuvres have not, however, been well established. We included seven trials in this review, totalling 1170 participants with acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome. We found that there was no significant difference in survival between groups given an 'open‐lung' ventilatory strategy that included recruitment manoeuvres and groups given standard ventilatory care. Recruitment manoeuvres briefly increased arterial oxygen partial pressure compared to standard care. Recruitment manoeuvres did not affect blood pressure, heart rate, or risk of air leak from the lungs. The main limitation of the review was the design of included trials that either did not isolate recruitment manoeuvres from other variables or assessed only short‐term outcomes.

Partial liquid ventilation for mechanical ventilation of severely ill children with acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome

The use of partial liquid ventilation to decrease the number of deaths and illness in children with acute onset respiratory failure is not supported by evidence from randomized controlled trials.

See all (336)

Summaries for consumers

Aerosolized prostacyclin for acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

The clinical research is insufficient to support the routine use of inhaled prostacyclin for acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome in critically ill children or adults with low blood oxygen levels. Acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are critical respiratory conditions that are triggered by respiratory viral infections or develop following burns, massive transfusions, multiple trauma, aspiration of gastric contents, pancreatitis, inhalation injury, sepsis, drug overdose and near drowning.

Recruitment manoeuvres compared to standard care for treatment of acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome.

A ventilated patient with acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome may be given a recruitment manoeuvre to open lung units that are collapsed. This is done by using a pressure that is higher than a normal breath for a longer period of time than is required for a normal breath. The effects of recruitment manoeuvres have not, however, been well established. We included seven trials in this review, totalling 1170 participants with acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome. We found that there was no significant difference in survival between groups given an 'open‐lung' ventilatory strategy that included recruitment manoeuvres and groups given standard ventilatory care. Recruitment manoeuvres briefly increased arterial oxygen partial pressure compared to standard care. Recruitment manoeuvres did not affect blood pressure, heart rate, or risk of air leak from the lungs. The main limitation of the review was the design of included trials that either did not isolate recruitment manoeuvres from other variables or assessed only short‐term outcomes.

Partial liquid ventilation for mechanical ventilation of severely ill children with acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome

The use of partial liquid ventilation to decrease the number of deaths and illness in children with acute onset respiratory failure is not supported by evidence from randomized controlled trials.

See all (21)

Terms to know

Acute
Describes something that happens suddenly and for a short time. Opposite of chronic, or long lasting.
Alveoli
Tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchioles (tiny branches of air tubes) in the lungs. The alveoli are where the lungs and the bloodstream exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. Carbon dioxide in the blood passes into the lungs through the alveoli. Oxygen in the lungs passes through the alveoli into the blood.
Blood
A tissue with red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other substances suspended in fluid called plasma. Blood takes oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and carries away wastes.
Capillaries
The smallest of the body's blood vessels. Oxygen and glucose pass through capillary walls and enter the cells. Waste products such as carbon dioxide pass back from the cells into the blood through capillaries.
Lungs
One of a pair of organs in the chest that supplies the body with oxygen, and removes carbon dioxide from the body.
Oxygen
A colorless, odorless gas. It is needed for animal and plant life. Oxygen that is breathed in enters the blood from the lungs and travels to the tissues.

More about Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Photo of an adult

Also called: Non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema, Acquired respiratory distress syndrome, Adult hyaline membrane disease, Adult respiratory distress syndrome, Congestive atelectasis, DaNang lung, Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema, Post-traumatic pulmonary insufficiency, Pulmonary capillary leak syndrome, Shock lung, Traumatic wet lung, Vietnam lung

Other terms to know: See all 6
Acute, Alveoli, Blood

Related articles:
How the Lungs Work

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