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Who Is at Risk for ARDS?

People at risk for ARDS have a condition or illness that can directly or indirectly injure their lungs.

Direct Lung Injury

Conditions that can directly injure the lungs include:

  • Pneumonia. This is an infection in the lungs.
  • Breathing in harmful fumes or smoke.
  • Inhaling vomited stomach contents from the mouth.
  • Using a ventilator. This is a machine that supports breathing; however, the pressure from a ventilator sometimes can injure the lungs.
  • Nearly drowning.

Indirect Lung Injury

Conditions that can indirectly injure the lungs include:

  • Sepsis. This is a condition in which bacteria infect the bloodstream.
  • Severe bleeding caused by an injury to the body or having many blood transfusions.
  • An injury to the chest or head, such as a severe blow.
  • Pancreatitis (PAN-kre-ah-TI-tis). This is a condition in which the pancreas becomes irritated or infected. The pancreas is a gland that releases enzymes and hormones.
  • Fat embolism (EM-bo-lizm). This is a condition in which fat blocks an artery. A physical injury, like a broken bone, can lead to a fat embolism.
  • Drug reaction.
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ARDS Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for ARDS, visit

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January 12, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.