Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome

(ARDS; Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome; Non-cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema)


Adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a form of lung failure. It is a life-threatening lung condition. ARDS can occur in very ill or severely injured people. It is not a specific disease.
ARDS starts with the tiny blood vessels in the lungs. These vessels leak fluid into the lung sacs. The fluid decreases the ability of the lungs to move oxygen into the body.
ARDS can develop in anyone over the age of 1 year.
Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome
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ARDS can be caused by many types of injuries, including:
Indirect injury to the lungs:
ARDS may occur within few days of a lung or bone marrow transplantation.

Risk Factors

ARDS develops most often in people who are being treated for the conditions listed above. Very few who have these issues will go on to develop ARDS.
Other factors that may increase your chance of ARDS include:


ARDS may cause:
They often develop within 24-48 hours of the injury. If you or someone else is experiencing any symptoms, seek medical help


Doctors may suspect ARDS when:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. People who develop ARDS may be too sick to complain of symptoms. Tests may include:


If you are able, talk with the doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Often, ARDS patients are sedated to tolerate these treatments.


To help reduce your chance of getting ARDS, seek timely treatment for any direct or indirect injury to the lungs.


American Lung Association

National Library of Medicine


Health Canada

The Lung Association


Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated May 12, 2015. Accessed June 30, 2015.

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Bernard G, Artigas A, et al. The American-European consensus conference on ARDS: Definitions, mechanisms, relevant outcomes, and clinical trial coordination. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1994;149(3 Pt 1):818-824.

Bosma KJ, Lewis JF. Emerging therapies for treatment of acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Expert Opin Emgerg Drugs. 2007;12(3): 461-477.

Explore ARDS. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated January 12, 2012. Accessed January 2015.

Jain R, DaiNogare A. Pharmacological therapy for acute respiratory distress syndrome. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006;81(2):205-212.

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Understanding ARDS. ARDS Support Center website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2015.

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