Overview of ARDS

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is sudden, life-threatening lung failure. ARDS inflames the alveoli, causing them to fill with liquid and collapse. Once the alveoli collapse, gas exchange ceases, and the body becomes starved of oxygen. ARDS requires treatment with mechanical ventilation or some other form of assisted breathing.

ARDS is a syndrome, not a specific disease. A variety of underlying conditions, from blood-borne infections to major trauma, can cause the characteristic inflammation and accumulation of fluid (edema) in the alveoli (see causes of ARDS).

ARDS usually develops within 24 to 48 hours of the injury or illness. The duration and intensity of the condition can vary considerably from patient to patient. The mortality rate from ARDS ranges from 35—50%. In most cases, death results from underlying disease or from complications of mechanical ventilation. In patients who survive, normal lung function usually resumes within 6 to 12 months.

Incidence & Prevalence of ARDS

According to the American Lung Association, the incidence of ARDS ranges from 1.5 to 71 per 100,000 persons in the United States.

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

Published: 05 Dec 2000

Last Modified: 17 May 2011