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
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.

For more information please see the published paper in BMC Pulmonary Medicine.