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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS, is a type of severe respiratory condition characterized by severe lung inflammation and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema. As a result, there’s decreased lung compliance, leading to hypoxemia and respiratory failure.
Now, let’s quickly review the respiratory tract, which can be divided into two regions: the upper respiratory tract and lower respiratory tract. The upper respiratory tract includes the nose, nasal cavity, the oral cavity, pharynx, epiglottis, larynx, and the upper part of the trachea; while the lower respiratory tract includes the lower part of the trachea, and the lungs containing the bronchi, bronchioles, alveolar ducts, and finally the alveoli.
Alveoli are tiny air-filled sacs where most gas exchange occurs, so as we breathe, the inhaled oxygen moves from the alveolar sacs into the blood, while the carbon dioxide moves from the blood into the alveolar sacs to be exhaled. Now, the alveoli are lined by two types of alveolar epithelial cells, called pneumocytes. The vast majority are type I pneumocytes, which allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to pass through them. There are also type II pneumocytes scattered around which produce surfactant, an oily secretion that coats the alveoli and prevents their collapse.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a life-threatening lung condition that results in non-compliant lungs and poor blood oxygenation. It is associated with diffuse alveolar and endothelial injury. ARDS can be caused by a number of things, including pneumonia, sepsis, and trauma. Symptoms include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and blue lips and fingernails.
Nurses play an important role in diagnosing and managing ARDS. They help monitor patients and provide respiratory support. Nurses also play an important role in educating families about this condition and helping them to understand what to expect.
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