Key points

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome is triggered by injury to the alveolar–capillary barrier from any of a variety of causes, resulting in fluid accumulation and acute respiratory failure.
  • A significant proportion of all patients admitted to intensive care units are suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • The mortality of acute respiratory distress syndrome is high, at between one-quarter and one-half of patients.
  • In the absence of effective pharmacological therapies, mechanical ventilation using small tidal volumes remains the keystone of acute respiratory distress syndrome management.

See the entire Acute respiratory distress syndrome Chapter