ARDS - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Our medical malpractice lawyers deal with adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) negligence cases. If you would like legal advice at no cost and with no further obligation just call the helpline or complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices. Our ARDS medical malpractice lawyers usually deal with personal injury compensation cases on a contingency basis which means that you only pay your lawyers legal fees if the case is won.

ARDS - Medical Malpractice

ARDS is also known as adult respiratory distress syndrome. It is also called "shock lung" or noncardiogenic pulmonary oedema. It is a life threatening condition of the lung in adults that prevents oxygenation of the blood. It occurs when the lung is injured in any traumatic way, when vomit is breathed into the lungs, when chemicals are inhaled, when pneumonia occurs in the lungs, when there is other bodily trauma or in situations of septic shock. It causes fluid build up within the air sacs so that oxygen cannot get through to the bloodstream and oxygenate the body. The death rate of ARDS is very high unless substantial measures are used to treat the disease.

The lungs become stiff and heavy with fluid so that there is a decreased ability of the lungs to expand. There can be a dangerously low level of blood oxygen, even when the person is on a ventilator via an ET tube or "endotracheal tube".

There is often coexisting organ failure with ARDS. Failure of the liver and kidneys is common. Those who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol heavily are at a greater risk of getting ARDS.

The major symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome include rapid and laboured breathing, low blood pressure, organ failure and extreme shortness of breath. Symptoms develop within 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the trauma, injury or illness. The ARDS becomes the primary illness over and above whatever illness you originally had.

Doctors must do a complete history and physical examination in order to identify ARDS. They must listen to the chest which shows decreased breath sounds and crackles in the lungs because of the excess fluid in the lungs. The blood pressure is usually quite low and the individual is often cyanotic with blue lips, blue skin and blue fingernails because of low oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

Other diagnostic tools include doing arterial blood gases to check for oxygenation and metabolic acidosis, bronchoscopy to see if there is an infection going on in the lungs and to do a lung biopsy, CBC evaluation along with blood chemistries, chest x-ray, which shows a "white out" in the lungs and sputum for cultures and sputum analysis. Other tests for infection, like blood cultures, can be obtained for clarification of the cause of ARDS. An echocardiogram or Swan-Ganz catheterization can be done to prove that the patient does not have congestive heart failure.

Intensive care treatment is vital with those who have ARDS. The main goal of treatment is to treat the underlying cause of the disease and to support the breathing as much as possible. Antibiotics may be necessary and the person may need to be on a ventilator for maximal support of breathing. Lasix may be given to draw fluid from the lungs and positive end expiratory pressure breathing or PEEP breathing may be required to keep the airways open at all times. The patient may need to be deeply sedated on the respirator to remove discomfort from being ventilated and from any pain involved with the disease. Corticosteroids are sometimes used to support the blood pressure and to stop an overactive immune system.

A third of all patients who suffer from ARDS will die from the condition. If you survive the disease, you often recover without any permanent lung damage but some mild lung damage over the long haul is possible. There can be loss of memory or cognition after recovering from ARDS, depending on how low your blood pressure was and how little oxygen your brain got during the time of your injury and illness.

Complications of ARDS include pneumothorax or other lung damage due to the high settings used on the ventilator in order to keep your oxygen up. You can die or suffer from end organ failure, particularly of the liver and kidneys. You can develop pulmonary fibrosis or ventilator associated pneumonia.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here