Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is an intensive medical care syndrome, which has a persistently high prevalence as well as high mortality and morbidity. Since the initial description of the syndrome in 1968, the pathophysiology with inflammation after potential triggers, the diagnostics of underlying diseases and causes, the importance of differentiated invasive ventilation and intensive medical care procedures and prognosis are far better researched and understood. The 2012 Berlin ARDS definition takes these advances into account with the aim of bedside identification of patients with ARDS. Avoiding invasive mechanical ventilation when possible, lung protective invasive ventilation when it becomes necessary with adequate positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) and reducing barotrauma and atelectatic trauma, managing patient fluid load and positioning treatment remain the most important mechanistic procedures. Causal treatment, apart from treatment of underlying infections, is still not available. Survivors of ARDS very often face relevant long-term sequelae. © Springer Medizin Verlag GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2020.