Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Causes

There are a number of underlying conditions that can lead to ARDS. However, in most cases, people with these conditions do not develop ARDS. It is not clear why some people are at a higher risk than others.

Causes of acute respiratory distress syndrome include the following:

  • Serious infection in the blood or other tissues (called sepsis; accounts for more than 30 percent of cases)
  • Severe chest trauma
  • Severe lung infection (e.g., bacterial or viral pneumonia)
  • Inhalation of vomited stomach contents
  • Inhalation of smoke or other toxic fumes
  • Fat embolis (globule of fat that blocks an artery)
  • Near drowning
  • Massive blood transfusion
  • Cardiopulmonary bypass surgery
  • Ingestion of certain drugs
  • Acute pancreatitis

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 04 Dec 2000

Last Modified: 01 Sep 2015