Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS): Nursing

00:00 / 00:00



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.


  1. "Medical-surgical nursing: Concepts for interprofessional collaborative care (10th ed.)" Elsevier (2021)
  2. "Lewis’s medical-surgical nursing: Assessment and management of clinical problems" Elsevier (2020)
  3. "Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination" Elsevier (2018)
  4. "Mechanical ventilation in ARDS" Critical care nursing quarterly (2019)
  5. "Advances in the Regulation of Macrophage Polarization by Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Implications for ALI/ARDS Treatment" Frontiers in Immunology (2022)
  6. "Pathogenesis of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome" Seminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2019)
  7. "Management of ARDS – What Works and What Does Not" The American Journal of the Medical Sciences (2021)

Copyright © 2023 Elsevier, its licensors, and contributors. All rights are reserved, including those for text and data mining, AI training, and similar technologies.

Cookies are used by this site.

USMLE® is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). COMLEX-USA® is a registered trademark of The National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, Inc. NCLEX-RN® is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. Test names and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are endorsed by nor affiliated with Osmosis or this website.