Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ADRS)
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening medical condition, arises when the lungs cannot sufficiently supply essential oxygen to the body’s vital organs. Typically, ARDS manifests as a complication of an underlying severe health condition, necessitating hospitalization before its onset.
The symptoms commonly associated with ARDS encompass:
- Pronounced difficulty in breathing, characterized by severe shortness of breath.
- Rapid and shallow breathing patterns.
- Experiencing fatigue, drowsiness, or confusion.
- Sensations of lightheadedness or faintness.
Causes of Acute respiratory distress syndrome
ARDS occurs when the lungs undergo significant inflammation due to an infection or an injury. This inflammation leads to fluid leakage from nearby blood vessels into the small air sacs within the lungs, which hampers breathing.
The following circumstances can contribute to lung inflammation leading to ARDS:
- Pneumoniaor severe influenza infection.
- A major chest injury.
- Inhalation of vomit, smoke, or toxic chemicals by accident.
- Near-drowning incidents.
- Acute pancreatitis– rapid onset of pancreatic inflammation.
- Adverse reactions triggered by blood transfusions.
Diagnosing Acute respiratory distress syndrome
The diagnosis of ARDS does not rely on a single specific test. Instead, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to determine the underlying cause while excluding other potential conditions.
This assessment typically involves the following components:
- Thorough physical examination.
- Blood tests to assess oxygen levels, identify potential infections and evaluate other relevant markers.
- Pulse oximetry is a sensor attached to the fingertip, ear, or toe to measure oxygen saturation levels in the blood.
- Imaging techniques such as chestX-raysand CT scans to identify indications of ARDS within the lungs.
- Utilizing an echocardiogram, an ultrasound scanfocusing on examining the heart and nearby blood vessels, to gather additional information.
By integrating these various diagnostic approaches, healthcare professionals can comprehensively understand the condition, identify ARDS, and differentiate it from other possible disorders.
When ARDS develops, hospital admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) is typically necessary, and mechanical ventilation with a breathing machine (ventilator) becomes a key component of treatment.
Ventilation support involves breathing through a mask connected to the machine. In cases of severe respiratory impairment, a breathing tube may be inserted through the throat and into the lungs.
It is important to identify the underlying cause of ARDS. For instance, antibiotics will likely be administered if a bacterial infection is the cause.
The duration of hospitalization depends on individual circumstances and the specific cause of ARDS. While most patients respond positively to treatment, it may take several weeks or months to regain sufficient health.
Reviewed by-Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD
Page last reviewed: 17 June 2023