Breathlessness and presentation to the emergency department

Breathlessness is a frequently occurring symptom of cardiorespiratory conditions and is a common cause of emergency department presentation. The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of acute-on-chronic breathlessness as a cause for presentation to the major emergencies area of the emergency department.

About the project

Title of project: Breathlessness and presentation to the emergency department: a survey and clinical record review
Funder: University of Hull and NHS Hull CCG
Time frame: 2014: Completed
Publication: BMC Pulmonary Medicine
Contact for more details: Professor Miriam Johnson and Dr Ann Hutchinson

The aim of this project was to estimate the prevalence of patient-reported acute-on-chronic breathlessness as a reason for presentation to the major emergencies area (“majors”) of the emergency department.

1,212 participants completed a survey of patients brought to the ED by ambulance. One third of people presenting to the emergency department lived with chronic breathlessness (424/1,212). One in five presentations were due to breathlessness (245/1,212). Most people had non-malignant causes of chronic breathlessness. Approximately one third attending with acute-on-chronic breathlessness did not need hospital admission and were allowed home. Those most likely to be admitted to hospital were older, had heart disease and worse oxygen levels.