Patho Patho #49


What is the pathophysiology of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)?


  1. 1. Infection and inflammation that leads to fluid-filled alveoli and atelectasis.
    • Rationale:

      This answer choice is not correct as fluid filled alveoli and infection describes the underlying pathophysiology of pneumonia rather than ARDS.

  2. 2. Irritation of the mucus producing goblet cells within the bronchi.
    • Rationale:

      This answer choice is not correct because the overproduction of mucus by goblet cells describes the underlying pathophysiology of chronic bronchitis and not ARDS.

  3. 3. Complete separation of the alveolar-capillary membrane which prevents gas exchange.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because the underlying patho of ARDS is a separation of the alveolar bed from the underlying capillary bed thus preventing adequate gas exchange.

  4. 4. Hyperactivity of the bronchi due to an exposure to an external allergen.
    • Rationale:

      This answer choice is not correct as hyperactivity of the airways describes the underlying patho of asthma and not ARDS.


The focus of this question is asking the nurse to identify the underlying pathophysiological process for ARDS. ARDS is a disease process that most often results from widespread infection caused by another disease process, usually sepsis. The widespread inflammation that results causes fluid to build up between the alveolar-capillary membrane, thus preventing adequate gas exchange.


Learning Outcomes

The hallmark manifestation of ARDS is refractory hypoxemia, or hypoxemia that does not respond to large amounts of FiO2. The reason for this is that the alveolar membrane and underlying capillary bed have lost contact therefore preventing gas exchange to occur. The treatment for ARDS consists of large amounts of positive pressure in order to expand the alveoli and promote gas exchange.

Test Taking Tip

Make sure to understand the underlying pathophysiology of the major disorders or each body system. If you understand the underlying patho, or what is taking place inside the body to cause the outward manifestations of the disease process, you will likely be able to answer any question correctly regarding that disease process.

Video Rationale