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Chest. 2008 Sep;134(3):489-496. doi: 10.1378/chest.07-2916. Epub 2008 May 19.

The language of breathlessness differentiates between patients with COPD and age-matched adults.

Author information

1
School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, City East Campus, Adelaide. Electronic address: marie.williams@unisa.edu.au.
2
Department of Respiratory Medicine, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, Adelaide.
3
School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, City East Campus, Adelaide.
4
Applied Statistics Unit, University of South Australia, Whyalla Campus, Whyalla.
5
Respiratory Services, Repatriation General Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, Adelaide, SA, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

If descriptors of the sensation of breathlessness are able to differentiate between medical conditions, the language of breathlessness could potentially have a role in differential diagnosis. This study investigated whether the language used to describe the sensation of breathlessness accurately categorized older individuals with and without a prior diagnosis of COPD.

METHODS:

Using a parallel-group design, participants with and without a prior diagnosis of COPD volunteered words and phrases and endorsed up to three statements to describe their sensation of breathlessness. Cluster analysis (v-fold cross-validation) was applied, and subjects were clustered by their choice of words. Cluster membership was then compared to original group membership (COPD vs non-COPD), and predictive power was assessed.

RESULTS:

Groups were similar for age and gender (COPD, n = 94; 48 men; mean age, 70 +/- 10 years [+/- SD]; vs non-COPD, n = 55; 21 men; mean age, 69 +/- 13 years) but differed significantly in breathlessness-related impairment, intensity, and quality of life (p < 0.0001). Cluster membership corresponded accurately with original group classifications (volunteered, 85%; and up to three statements, 68% agreement). Classification based on a single best descriptor (volunteered [62%] or endorsed [55%]) was less accurate for group membership.

CONCLUSIONS:

Language used to describe the sensation of breathlessness differentiated people with and without a prior diagnosis of COPD when descriptors were not limited to a single best word or statement.

PMID:
18490404
DOI:
10.1378/chest.07-2916
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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