Recovering from ARDS
What to Expect
ARDS is a serious disease that can be frightening for patients and families to endure. The outcomes tend to be better in younger patients, trauma patients and when ARDS is caused by blood transfusions. Most people will not die of the severely low oxygen levels in the blood associated with ARDS. However, the chance of dying increases dramatically if other organs begin to fail. This could include liver failure, kidney failure or severely decreased blood pressure.
Managing the Disease
Often patients will require ventilation for longer periods of time. Although there is no set time, after about 7 to 14 days, the doctors may need to surgically place a tube that is surgically directly into the windpipe through the neck (tracheostomy). This would only be placed if doctors felt it would take longer than a few weeks to remove the patient from the ventilator. This tube is not permanent and can easily be removed once the patient no longer needs the ventilator.
It is important to note that people can survive ARDS. Most patients will not require oxygen on a long-term basis and will regain most of their lung function. Some people who survive ARDS struggle with weakness, which might mean they end up in the hospital more frequently or need to seek out therapy, such as pulmonary rehabilitation, to regain their strength.
Facing ARDS may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress for both patients and their loved ones. Joining a support group may help you adjust to your condition. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk to your doctor about local support groups, or check with an area medical center.
Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.
The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association’s Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with support.
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This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.