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Pediatric Acute Lung Injury



A pediatric acute lung injury causes lung inflammation (swelling), which prevents oxygen from circulating in the body.

Expanded Overview

Acute (sudden and severe) lung injuries can result from distress to the chest or lungs or an infection. The injury will decrease the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s vital organs. As a result, the patient will suffer respiratory distress and will most likely need a ventilator to help them breathe.


Acute (sudden and severe) lung injuries occur due to direct or indirect causes:

  • Direct cause — such as a trauma to the chest that puts the body in shock or breathing in smoke (inhalation)
  • Indirect cause — such as a severe infection or complications from pneumonia


Symptoms of an acute lung injury may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Excessive carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fluid buildup in lungs
  • Low concentration of oxygen in the blood
Tests and Diagnosis

Tests and Diagnosis

The following are tests that are used to diagnose acute lung injury. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these tests:

  • History and physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan: a noninvasive test that uses X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the body
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): a noninvasive test that records the heart's electrical activity
  • Echocardiogram: a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart
  • Sputum culture: a test of secretions from the lungs


Acute lung injury is a critical condition that requires constant oversight by a team of specially-trained caregivers. The critical care physicians at Children's Health℠ are international leaders in pediatric critical care. They work closely with nurses, respiratory therapists and other team members to make sure that your child gets whatever is needed at a moment's notice.

Standard acute lung injury treatments

The following are customary treatments for acute lung injury. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these treatment methods:

  • Medications to treat infection, relieve pain, and prevent blood clots
  • Oxygen therapy to increase the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream
  • Mechanical ventilation to help with breathing
  • IV fluids to improve blood flow and provide nutrition

Advanced acute lung injury treatments

The critical care team at Children's Health℠ is prepared to treat children with any critical care diagnosis or crisis, including acute lung injury. At Children’s, we provide patient-centered care, which means we put your child’s interests at the forefront. We have multiple resources that are designed to not only meet the needs of your child, but also your entire family. Some of those resources include

  • Child Life services
  • Social work
  • Pastoral care
  • Translation services
  • Nutrition services

Immediate family is welcome 24 hours a day and we even provide sleeping accommodations, though they are limited.

Although our main focus has always been high-quality patient care, many of our medical staff members also conduct research into new treatment methods and technologies. This allows Children’s to have access to new therapies years before they are available at other institutions.

Our medical staff also wrote one of the major textbooks in the field of pediatric critical care, which helped define how Pediatric critical care is provided nationally.



For more information on acute lung injury, refer to the following resources:



What is acute lung injury?

Acute lung injury is a condition in which fluid builds up in the lungs. That makes it difficult to get enough oxygen into the bloodstream and to vital organs.

What causes acute lung injury?

Acute lung injury can be caused by trauma to the lungs, by severe pneumonia, the inhaling harmful chemicals, or by a severe infection of the bloodstream, which is called sepsis.

How do I know if my child has acute lung injury?

If your child has symptoms of acute lung injury, you should have her evaluated by a physician. Symptoms of acute lung injury may include difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, low blood pressure, fatigue and confusion.

What kinds of tests are used to diagnose acute lung injury?

Tests used to diagnose acute lung injury include blood tests, X-rays, EKG, imaging studies, and a culture done on your child’s sputum (also known as spit.)

How is acute lung injury treated?

Treatments for acute lung injury may include medications, oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation, and IV fluids.

Care Team

Meet the Care Team

Physician contacts

Hospital Contacts

  • Lori Allen , RN, CCRN
  • Karen Cavazos , RN, MBA, CNAA, BC
  • Lori Allen , RN, CCRN

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