is sudden respiratory insufficiency manifested by severe dyspnoea. The respiratory system then fails to ensure the normal gaseous exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It is a medical emergency that can be life-threatening for the patient and leads to around a third of hospitalizations in intensive care units.
There are two main types of respiratory distress: hypoxemic when only the partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial blood is lowered, and hypercapnic, when there is an increase in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide.
The diagnosis of respiratory distress is above all clinical: few additional examinations are necessary, and these are dominated by the measurement of the oxygen content of the blood by a scatterometer, the study of blood gases by an arterial sample, and the pulmonary radiography. Other examinations will however make it possible to refine the etiological diagnosis and to identify the process causing the failure.
In pediatrics, the Silverman score is used to diagnose and assess the respiratory distress of a newborn. A score greater than 4 indicates a serious condition that may lead to intubation. The thoracoabdominal swing appears last and leads to a score of 9-10, which indicates major exhaustion of the child.