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How is adult respiratory distress syndrome diagnosed?

After doing a complete medical history and physical exam, the doctor may suspect ARDS. This is especially true when shortness of breath develops in a person who has had severe trauma or infection. Early diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion aroused by the onset of dyspnea in settings that predispose to ARDS. Chest auscultation (examination with a stethoscope) reveals abnormal breath sounds, such as crackles that suggest fluid in the lungs. Often the blood pressure is low. Cyanosis (blue skin, lips, and nails caused by lack of oxygen to the tissues) is frequently seen. A presumptive diagnosis can be made with arterial blood gas analysis and chest x-rays. This analysis initially shows acute respiratory alkalosis: a very low PaO2, a normal or low PaCO2, and an elevated pH. The chest x ray may be normal in the early stages, but, in a short time, fluid will be seen where it does not belong. The two lungs are about equally affected. A heart of normal size indicates that the problem actually is ARDS and not heart failure. Another way a physician can distinguish between these two possibilities is to place a catheter into a vein and advance it into the main artery of the lung. In this way, the pressure within the pulmonary capillaries can be measured. Pressure within the pulmonary capillaries is elevated in heart failure, but normal in ARDS.

 

More information on adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

What is adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)? - Adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a type of lung (pulmonary) failure that may result from any disease that causes large amounts of fluid to collect in the lungs.
What causes adult respiratory distress syndrome? - Causes of adult respiratory distress syndrome include pneumonia, septic shock, trauma, aspiration of vomit, or chemical inhalation.
What're the symptoms of adult respiratory distress syndrome? - Signs and symptoms of adult respiratory distress syndrome include shortness of breath, tachypnea, dyspnea, and normal auscultatory findings in the chest.
How is adult respiratory distress syndrome diagnosed? - Early diagnosis of adult respiratory distress syndrome requires a high index of suspicion aroused by the onset of dyspnea in settings that predispose to ARDS.
What's the treatment for adult respiratory distress syndrome? - The objective of treatment for adult respiratory distress syndrome is to provide enough support for the failing respiratory system.
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