ARDS occurs in approximately 200,000 people each year in the United States.  How often ARDS occurs varies between hospitals based upon how often patients in those hospitals have the underlying causes.  For example, larger hospitals who receive critically ill and injured patients, such as those with sepsis and trauma, are more likely to care for patients with ARDS.  Although estimates have not been made in all areas around the world, ARDS is likely at least as common elsewhere.  At similar rates to the USA, there are more than 4,000,000 cases of ARDS worldwide each year.  The conditions that lead to ARDS are even more common, with pneumonia, sepsis and trauma being the most common and varying between countries. 


The medical community is increasingly recognizing ARDS as both a common and life-threatening condition as well as one with a potentially devastating long-term impact.  Historically, the presence of ARDS was not discussed with patients and families, and it has only been systematically recognized by physicians for the past twenty years.   Because it’s not a common term in lay language, the word ARDS is often not used when communicating with families.  Patients who have ARDS are often described as having severe or double pneumonia, persistent respiratory failure, and those who die with ARDS may be described as having died of complications of the original condition (for example, pneumonia, sepsis, trauma or other causes).  ARDS was traditionally considered a disease that was fortunate to survive, very little attention was paid to the longer-term sequelae and survivors rarely became advocates for their condition.  As we learn more about ARDS, such as the optimal care during hospitalization and ICU stay, the long-term consequences and patient needs after hospitalization, patients, families and healthcare providers are becoming more vocal about the condition, such as with patients who suffer similar devastating conditions like heart attack and stroke.

Why do we not know about ARDS?