Dyspnea during daily activities in chronic spinal cord injury

Noel F. Grandas, Nitin B. Jain, Joan B. Denckla, Robert Brown, Carlos G. Tun, Mary Ellen Gallagher, Eric Garshick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess factors associated with breathlessness in chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) during daily activities. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Settings: Veterans Affairs SCI service and the community. Participants: Four hundred forty-one participants 1 or more years post-SCI, and without acute illness, were recruited between 1994 and 2003 and were categorized according to their ability to walk unassisted, walk with an aid, or to move about by either hand-propelled wheelchair or motorized wheelchair (MWC). Interventions: Assessment of injury extent, respiratory symptoms, cigarette smoking, comorbid medical conditions, and spirometry. Main Outcome Measures: Breathlessness during talking, eating, or dressing. Results: Breathlessness was more common in MWC users (20/85 users, 24%) than in nonusers (20/356, 6%). The main activity associated with breathlessness in 15 MWC users was talking (18%). In MWC users, the risk of breathlessness was related to lifetime cigarette smoking (odds ratio [OR]=1.02; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.00-1.03 per pack year), and reports of chronic cough (OR=7.8; 95% CI, 2.0-32.7), and wheeze (OR=3.5; 95% CI, 1.04-13.6). SCI level, percentage of predicted forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in 1 second, and maximal inspiratory pressures were not related to breathlessness. Conclusions: Breathlessness during selected daily activities (most commonly talking) was greatest in SCI participants who were most impaired with regard to mobility and was associated with reports of coughing, wheezing, and cigarette smoking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1631-1635
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Dyspnea, Rehabilitation
  • Smoking
  • Speech
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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