BACKGROUND: Published reports indicate that survival rates of patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome have not improved dramatically since the first report of the condition in 1967. However, changes in ventilator strategies and improved critical care management may result in better survival rates in patients with well-defined, severe adult respiratory distress syndrome. OBJECTIVES: To report the outcomes of patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome treated in a community hospital and compare these findings with those in previously published reports. METHODS: A retrospective study design was used. All patients diagnosed with adult respiratory distress syndrome (N = 47) over a 2-year period were studied. RESULTS: For the study patients, the survival rate was 64%; 29% died from respiratory failure alone. Analysis demonstrated that advanced age was not associated with mortality. Pressure-control ventilation was used for 31 patients and there was no significant difference in the presence of barotrauma in the pressure-control mode vs volume ventilation. CONCLUSION: This survival rate exceeds most recently reported rates and thus supports the idea that improvement in treatment of adult respiratory distress syndrome is occurring.