What is ARDS?

What is ARDS?

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is the sudden failure of the respiratory (breathing) system. It can develop in anyone over the age of 1 who is critically ill. A person with ARDS has rapid breathing, difficulty getting enough air into the lungs and low blood oxygen levels.

ARDS usually develops in people who are already very ill with another disease or who have major injuries. They are usually already in the hospital when they develop the ARDS.

ARDS can be life-threatening because your body’s organs need oxygen-rich blood to function well. The good news is that because of improved treatment in recent years, more people are surviving ARDS.

If you have ARDS your lung function is likely to return to normal or near normal within several months. But some people with ARDS have lasting damage to their lungs or to areas outside the lungs.

 

How Serious Is ARDS?

Approximately 190,000 Americans are affected by ARDS annually.  ARDS can be life-threatening because your body’s organs need oxygen-rich blood to function well. Up to 30% of ARDS cases can be fatal. That is a significant improvement from the 50%-70% death rate just 20 years ago.

 

How Is ARDS Diagnosed?

Your doctor makes a diagnosis of ARDS based on your medical history, a physical exam and medical tests. Your doctor will listen for abnormal breathing sounds, listen to your heart and look for signs that your body has too much fluid, which could mean your heart or kidneys are not working properly.  ARDS is usually diagnosed in a patient who is in the hospital from a critical illness such as shock, sepsis or other trauma.

 

How Is ARDS Treated?

There is no specific treatment for ARDS. A person with ARDS is treated in the intensive care unit at the hospital. Often a person with ARDS will need a machine’s help to breathe (called mechanical ventilation) and oxygen therapy.

 

Source: American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome