As many as 20% of patients undergoing cardiac surgery will have acute respiratory distress syndrome during the perioperative period, with a mortality as high as 80%. If patients at risk can be identified, preventative measures can be taken and may improve outcomes. Care for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome is supportive, with low tidal volume ventilation being the mainstay of therapy. Careful fluid management, minimization of blood product transfusion, appropriate nutrition, and early physical rehabilitation may improve outcomes. In cases of refractory hypoxemia, rescue therapies such as recruitment maneuvers, high-frequency oscillatory ventilation, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation may preserve life.