What is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

What is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome_

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a serious condition caused by acute respiratory failure, which developed as a result of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema.


The pathology can be caused by inhalation of toxic substances, severe infectious lesions of the respiratory system, penetration into the lungs of liquids, massive blood transfusion, traumatic damage to the chest, extensive burn injuries, a shock of various etiologies, exposure to ionizing radiation.


There are four stages in the formation of an acute condition, each of which is characterized by separate symptomatology. The first stage of the disease is characterized by the absence or unexpressed symptoms.

The second is characterized by superficial rapid breathing, shortness of breath, cyanosis of the fingers and nasolabial triangle, increased heart rate. There may be coughing accompanied by the release of foamy sputum with a slight admixture of blood.

At the third stage, patients complain of a lack of air, they have a significant increase in heart rate, blueness of the skin, sharp shortness of breath, decreased blood pressure and increased breathing. The breathing in such patients becomes noisy and audible from a distance, retraction of intercostal spaces and supraclavicular fossae is observed. Coughing is accompanied by pink foamy sputum.

The fourth terminal stage is characterized by multiple organ failure, severe oxygen deficiency, a violation of the heart rhythm, depression of consciousness and coma.


When diagnosing this pathological condition, the specialist conducts a physical examination of the patient, performs lung listening using a phonendoscope. The patient is undergoing a study of the gas composition of the blood, during which a sharp increase in carbon dioxide is detected. A biochemical study of the blood is performed.

All patients undergo an X-ray examination of the chest organs, during which it is possible to establish changes in the lung tissue typical of this disease.


Without immediate treatment, many ARDS patients do not survive. However, with appropriate treatment, approximately 60–75% of patients with ARDS survive.

People who respond quickly to treatment usually recover completely, subsequently having only minor lung effects, or no effects at all. If treatment includes long periods of mechanical ventilation (using an apparatus that helps air to enter and exit the lungs), then patients are more likely to develop cicatricial changes in the lungs. Such cicatricial changes can decrease within a few months after a person is disconnected from the mechanical ventilation apparatus (mechanical ventilation). If cicatricial changes in the lungs are extensive, they can irreversibly impair lung function in such a way that it becomes noticeable during certain types of daily activities. Less extensive cicatricial changes can disrupt lung function only during periods of pressure on the lungs, for example, during exercise or illness.

Many people lose body weight and a significant portion of their muscle mass during illness. Hospital rehabilitation can help them regain their strength and regain independence


Therapy for such patients should be carried out in the intensive care unit. Such patients are prescribed oxygen therapy, during which they receive oxygen through special devices.

In order to prevent pneumonia, such patients are prescribed antibiotic therapy. If necessary, the use of glucocorticosteroid, diuretic and anticoagulant agents is indicated. With severe pain, the patient is prescribed painkillers. In addition, patients take drugs to maintain the cardiovascular, urinary system and liver. With severe respiratory failure, the patient is connected to a ventilator.


Prevention of this pathological condition includes the timely treatment of various diseases of the respiratory system, the exclusion of exposure to agents that contribute to the development of disorders and careful medical monitoring of patients undergoing a blood transfusion.

Category: Health Care

Tags: Respiratory, Respiratory diseases, respiratory failure, respiratory system