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Relationship between Dyspnea Descriptors and Underlying Causes of the Symptom; a Cross-sectional Study

Seyyed Mohammad Ali Sajadi, Alireza Majidi, Fahimeh Abdollahimajd, Fatemeh Jalali




Introduction: History taking and physical examination help clinicians identify the patient’s problem and effectively treat it. This study aimed to evaluate the descriptors of dyspnea in patients presenting to emergency department (ED) with asthma, congestive heart failure (CHF), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Method: This cross-sectional study was conducted on all patients presenting to ED with chief complaint of dyspnea, during 2 years. The patients were asked to describe their dyspnea by choosing three items from the valid and reliable questionnaire or articulating their sensation. The relationship between dyspnea descriptors and underlying cause of symptom was evaluated using SPSS version 16. Results: 312 patients with the mean age of 60.96±17.01 years were evaluated (53.2% male). Most of the patients were > 65 years old (48.7%) and had basic level of education (76.9%).  "My breath doesn’t go out all the way" with 83.1%, “My chest feels tight " with 45.8%, and "I feel that my airway is obstructed" with 40.7%, were the most frequent dyspnea descriptors in asthma patients. "My breathing requires work" with 46.3%, "I feel that I am suffocating" with 31.5%, and "My breath doesn’t go out all the way" with 29.6%, were the most frequent dyspnea descriptors in COPD patients. "My breathing is heavy" with 74.4%, "A hunger for more air” with 24.4%, and "I cannot get enough air" with 23.2%, were the most frequent dyspnea descriptors in CHF patients. Except for “My breath does not go in all the way”, there was significant correlation between studied dyspnea descriptors and underlying disease (p = 0.001 for all analyses). Conclusion: It seems that dyspnea descriptors along with other findings from history and physical examination could be helpful in differentiating the causes of the symptom in patients presenting to ED suffering from dyspnea.




Dyspnea; Asthma; Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive; Heart Failure; Symptom Assessment


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22037/emergency.v5i1.13487

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