What is the treatment of ARDS?

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 11, 2013

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ARDS is treated with oxygen therapy, fluids, and medicines. Treatments are done in a hospital's intensive care unit. 

The main goals of treating ARDS include getting oxygen to your lungs and organs (like the brain and kidneys) and treating the underlying condition that's causing ARDS.

Oxygen Therapy

First, your doctor will try to give you extra oxygen. Oxygen is given through a mask that fits over your mouth (or mouth and nose).

If your oxygen level doesn't increase or it's still hard for you to breathe, your doctor will give you oxygen through a breathing tube. The flexible tube will be inserted through your mouth or nose and into your windpipe.

Before inserting the tube, your doctor will squirt or spray a liquid medicine into your throat (and possibly your nose) to make it numb. This helps prevent coughing and gagging when the tube is inserted. Your doctor also will give you medicine through an intravenous (IV) line into your bloodstream to make you sleepy and relaxed.

The breathing tube will be connected to a machine that helps you breathe (a ventilator). The ventilator will fill your lungs with oxygen-rich air.

Your doctor will adjust the ventilator as needed to help your lungs get the right amount of oxygen. This also will help prevent injury to your lungs from the pressure of the ventilator.
The breathing tube and ventilator are used until you can breathe on your own. If you need a ventilator for more than a few days, your doctor may do a tracheotomy (tra-ke-OT-o-me).
This procedure involves making a small cut in your neck to create an opening to the windpipe. The opening is called a pneumothorax (TRA-ke-OS-to-me). Your doctor will place the breathing tube directly into the windpipe. The tube is then connected to the ventilator.


Fluids may be given to improve the flow of blood through your body and to provide nutrition. Your doctor will make sure you get the right amount of fluids.

Too much fluid can fill the lungs, making it harder to get the oxygen you need. Not enough fluid can limit blood and oxygen flow to the body's organs. Fluids usually are given through an IV line inserted in one of your blood vessels.


Your doctor may give you medicines to prevent and treat infections and to relieve discomfort.


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