clinical features

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Patients with ARDS show a gradually worsening picture of respiratory disturbance which may rapidly become life threatening.

Usually, there is a latent period of hours or days after the insult with the patient hospitalised for one of the known aetiologic conditions.

This is then followed by stages of:

  • respiratory distress - dyspnoea, tachypnoea - but with a normal chest radiograph
  • increasing cyanosis, arterial hypoxaemia, and respiratory failure; the chest x-ray now shows diffuse bilateral shadowing which may be asymmetric depending on cause and recent posture
  • hypoxaemia becomes refractory to high inspired oxygen and respiratory acidosis develops
  • there may be death from hypoxic cardiac arrest

Not all stages are observed in all patients and some recover completely.

Last reviewed 11/2021