Chronic Dyspnea: Diagnosis and Evaluation

Nitin Budhwar, Zubair Syed

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Dyspnea is a symptom arising from a complex interplay of diseases and physiologic states and is commonly encountered in primary care. It is considered chronic if present for more than one month. As a symptom, dyspnea is a predictor for all-cause mortality. The likeliest causes of dyspnea are disease states involving the cardiac or pulmonary systems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, pneumonia, and coronary artery disease. A detailed history and physical examination should begin the workup; results should drive testing. Approaching testing in stages beginning with first-line tests, including a complete blood count, basic chemistry panel, electrocardiography, chest radiography, spirometry, and pulse oximetry, is recommended. If no cause is identified, second-line noninvasive testing such as echocardiography, cardiac stress tests, pulmonary function tests, and computed tomography scan of the lungs is suggested. Final options include more invasive tests that should be done in collaboration with specialty help. There are three main treatment and management goals: correctly identify the underlying disease process and treat appropriately, optimize recovery, and improve the dyspnea symptoms. The six-minute walk test can be helpful in measuring the effect of ongoing intervention. Care of patients with chronic dyspnea typically requires a multidisciplinary approach, which makes the primary care physician ideal for management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-548
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Family Physician
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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