The normal adult respiratory rate is 11–18/min, with a tidal volume of 400–800mL. Acute dyspnoea That is difficult or labored breathing is a common presenting symptom.
Common causes of Acute Dyspnoea
• Cardiogenic pulmonary oedema.
• MI .
• Pulmonary embolism.
• Arrhythmias .
• Asthma or exacerbation of COPD
• Pneumonia .
• Pleural effusion .
• Aspiration of foreign body or vomit .
• Pneumothorax/haemothorax .
• Flail chest .
• Drowning incident .
• Hypovolaemia or fever from any cause.
• Hyperventilation syndrome .
• Respiratory compensation for metabolic acidosis (DKA, salicylate overdose).
• Panic attack
Follow the ABC approach and resuscitate as necessary. The main aim of treatment is to correct life-threatening hypoxia.
- speed of onset of dyspnoea,
- past medical history and
- associated symptoms (cough, haemoptysis, fever, wheezing, chest pain).
Apply a pulse oximeter. (Remember that a normal oxygen saturation does not exclude significant lung pathology )
Get a ECG done to rule out life threatening cardiac cause.
A Chest X ray may help identify underlying respiratory causes.
Treat according to the identified cause.
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