Erlanger Logo

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

What Is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)?

Erlanger Respiratory, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine
979 East 3rd St.
Suite C-735
Chattanooga, TN 37403

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) happens when fluid builds up in the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. The fluid prevents your lungs from filling with enough air, reducing the amount of oxygen that can reach your bloodstream. This deprives your organs of the oxygen they need to function.

What Causes ARDS?

ARDS typically occurs in people who are already critically ill or who have significant injuries. ARDS can develop within a few hours to a few days after any of the following triggers:

  • Pneumonia
  • Systemic Infection (Sepsis)
  • Trauma
  • Multiple Blood Transfusions (TRALI)
  • Severe Burns
  • Severe Inflammation of the Pancreas (Pancreatitis)
  • Near-Drowning or other aspiration events
  • Drug Reactions
  • Large Volumes of Fluid used during post-trauma resuscitation.

What Are the Symptoms of ARDS?

The primary symptom of ARDS is severe shortness of breath.

How Is ARDS Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is of ARDS includes physical examination, chest imaging (X-ray and/or CT scan), and blood tests to measure oxygen levels. Other tests, such as an echocardiogram, may be conducted to rule out heart conditions with similar symptoms.

How Is ARDS Treated?

The primary goal of treatment is to improve oxygen levels in the blood, thereby ensuring all organs receive enough oxygen to function properly. To get more oxygen into your bloodstream, your doctor will likely use supplemental oxygen.  Mechanical ventilation may also be needed to help you breath and to force fluid out your lungs. Throughout this process, our pulmonary team will carefully manage intravenous fluids to prevent further build-up in the lungs, while ensuring the right level of fluids for proper heart and organ function. Medications will likely be used to help prevent infections, relieve pain and prevent blood clots.

What ARDS Resources Does Erlanger Offer?