Understanding persistent breathlessness: impact on patients and optimal approaches to symptomatic reduction–an overview

Publication Name

Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine


Introduction: Persistent breathlessness (breathlessness persisting despite optimal treatment for the underlying condition and resulting in disability) is a prevalent syndrome associated with chronic and life-limiting conditions. Improving the clinical recognition and assessment of persistent breathlessness is essential to ensure people are provided with the best treatment for optimal symptom control. Areas covered: This overview focuses on the impact of persistent breathlessness on patients, carers and the health system. It highlights the importance of identifying persistent breathlessness in clinical consultations, suggests steps to recognize this syndrome and discusses the evidence for non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments in this context. Future research directions are also suggested. Expert opinion: Persistent breathlessness is often invisible because 1) people may not engage with the health system and 2) both clinicians and patients are reluctant to discuss breathlessness in clinical consultations. Improving the recognition and assessment of this syndrome is critical to facilitate meaningful conversations between patients and clinicians and ensure patient-centered care. Non-pharmacological strategies are key to improving symptom management and health outcomes. Regular, low-dose, sustained-release morphine may help further reduce breathlessness in people who remain symptomatic despite disease-specific and non-pharmacological therapies.

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