Undifferentiated patients in respiratory distress require immediate attention in the emergency department. Using a thorough history and clinical examination, clinicians can determine the most likely causes of dyspnea. Understanding the pathophysiology of the most common diseases contributing to dyspnea guides rational testing and informed, expedited treatment decisions.
The cause of dyspnea is often evident from a complete history and physical examination.
Rapid determination of the cause of dyspnea saves lives.
Shortness of breath is not always primarily a pulmonary problem.
Understanding the pathophysiology of each disease allows clinicians to make rational decisions about testing.