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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): Treatments

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)

Treatments for ARDS

ARDS is treated in a hospital's intensive care unit. Current treatment approaches focus on improving blood oxygen levels and providing supportive care. Doctors also will try to pinpoint and treat the underlying cause of the condition.

Oxygen Therapy

One of the main goals of treating ARDS is to provide oxygen to your lungs and other organs (such as your brain and kidneys). Your organs need oxygen to work properly.

Oxygen usually is given through nasal prongs or a mask that fits over your mouth and nose. However, if your oxygen level doesn't rise or it's still hard for you to breathe, your doctor will give you oxygen through a breathing tube. He or she will insert the flexible tube through your mouth or nose and into your windpipe.

Before inserting the tube, your doctor will squirt or spray a liquid medicine into your throat (and possibly your nose) to make it numb. Your doctor also will give... Read more about Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): Treatments

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Pharmacological treatments for acute respiratory distress syndrome: systematic review

BACKGROUND: Our objective was to systematically review the effect of pharmacological therapies on mortality in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), focusing on randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published since a previous review in 2004.

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Summaries for consumers

Interventions to reduce neuromuscular complications acquired during the acute phase of critical illness

We reviewed the evidence about the effect of treatments to prevent or reduce complications affecting the nerves or muscles during the severe, early phase of critical illness. These complications are called critical illness polyneuropathy or myopathy (CIP/CIM) and can affect nerves, muscles or both.

There is little evidence to support the use of drugs to improve outcomes in adults with lung injury

In adults, direct lung damage or indirect damage caused by trauma, infection or other factors can result in acute lung injury, including acute respiratory distress syndrome. Patients with this syndrome require mechanical ventilation. About half of patients die, and survivors have a prolonged stay in intensive care and physical limitations afterwards. Many drugs have been studied to improve lung function and reduce inflammation in these patients. The evidence to date does not convincingly show that any drug saves lives, although some small studies have shown potential benefit.

Terms to know

Describes something that happens suddenly and for a short time. Opposite of chronic, or long lasting.
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.
One of a pair of organs in the chest that supplies the body with oxygen, and removes carbon dioxide from the body.
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.

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Other terms to know: See all 4
Acute, Blood, Lungs

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