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ARDS Treatment

Based in the intensive care unit, doctors in the ARDS program work closely with other specialists to make sure patients receive the highest quality care for their disease. 

Patients benefit from the experience and focused attention of the whole team, who collaborate to deliver specialized quality care. At the Temple Lung Center, board-certified critical care attending physicians staff the intensive care unit around the clock. 

ARDS treatment focuses on supporting the patient while the lung heals, and usually involves some combination of oxygen therapy, ventilator support, prone positioning, and extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Another important part of the care for ARDS is to prevent and manage complications related to being in an intensive care unit.

  • The most common treatment for ARDS is oxygen therapy. This involves delivering extra oxygen to patients, through a mask, nasal cannula (two small tubes that enter the nose), or a tube inserted directly into the windpipe.
  • Ventilator support: All patients with ARDS need oxygen therapy, as noted above. Oxygen alone is usually not enough, and patients will likely need to be supported by a mechanical ventilator too. Mechanical ventilation involves inserting a flexible tube through the nose or mouth and into the windpipe. Air then flows into the lungs to help the patient breathe, as well as to help reduce the fluid buildup in the lungs.
  • Prone positioning: Hospitalized patients are typically in bed on their backs. However, lying facedown (prone) may help improve oxygen levels in the blood and increase survival in patients with ARDS. This can be very complicated and takes a whole team to do, and some patients may be too sick for it. There are special beds in the intensive care unit designed to help position patients facedown.
  • ECMO: a complex treatment that takes blood outside of the patient’s body, adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide, and then returns it.