Acute respiratory distress syndrome: Overview, Causes

Alternate Names :

Noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, Increased-permeability pulmonary edema, Stiff lung, Shock lung, ARDS, Acute lung injury

Definition

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a life-threatening lung condition that prevents enough oxygen from getting into the blood.

See also: Infant respiratory distress syndrome

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

ARDS can be caused by any major swelling (inflammation) or injury to the lung. Some common causes include:

* Breathing vomit into the lungs (aspiration)
* Inhaling chemicals
* Pneumonia
* Septic shock
* Trauma

ARDS leads to a buildup of fluid in the air sacs. This fluid prevents enough oxygen from passing into the bloodstream.

The fluid buildup also makes the lungs heavy and stiff, and decreases the lungs’ ability to expand. The level of oxygen in the blood can stay dangerously low, even if the person receives oxygen from a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator) through a breathing tube (endotracheal tube).

ARDS often occurs along with the failure of other organ systems, such as the liver or the kidneys. Cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol use may be risk factors.

Pictures & Images

Lungs

The major features of the lungs include the bronchi, the bronchioles and the alveoli. The alveoli are the microscopic blood vessel-lined sacks in which oxygen and carbon dioxide gas are exchanged.

Respiratory system

Respiratory system

Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome: Overview, Causes

Acute respiratory distress syndrome: Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Acute respiratory distress syndrome: Treatment


Review Date : 1/22/2010
Reviewed By : Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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