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Eur J Epidemiol. 2012 Nov;27(11):867-76. doi: 10.1007/s10654-012-9736-0. Epub 2012 Oct 7.

Dyspnea severity, changes in dyspnea status and mortality in the general population: the Vlagtwedde/Vlaardingen study.

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Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Hanzeplein 1, P.O. Box 30001, 9700 RB, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Dyspnea is a predictor of mortality. The effects of dyspnea severity and changes in dyspnea status on all-cause and cause-specific mortality remain unclear. The Vlagtwedde/Vlaardingen study started in 1965 and subjects were re-examined every 3 years until 1989/1990. Vital status of all 8,465 subjects on December 31st, 2008 was assessed. Associations between mortality and dyspnea severity and changes in dyspnea status were investigated using Cox regression adjusted for gender, age, FEV1% predicted, place of residence, smoking and BMI. After 43 years of follow-up, 2,883 (39%) of 7,360 subjects examined for dyspnea severity had died, 1,386 (19%) due to cardiovascular disease, 267 (4%) due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Subjects with moderate and severe dyspnea had increased all-cause and cardiovascular mortality [moderate: HR=1.3 (95% CI 1.2-1.5) and 1.4 (1.1-1.6), severe: 1.5 (1.1-2.0) and 1.9 (1.3-2.6) respectively] compared to asymptomatics. Severe dyspnea was significantly associated with COPD mortality [3.3 (2.0-5.2)]. Subjects who lost dyspnea had hazard ratios for all-cause and cause-specific mortality comparable to asymptomatics. Persistent dyspnea and dyspnea development were risk factors for all-cause, cardiovascular and COPD mortality [persistent: 2.0 (1.4-2.8), 1.9 (1.2-3.3) and 3.3 (1.2-8.9), development: 1.5 (1.2-1.8), 2.0 (1.5-2.6) and 3.8 (2.3-6.3) respectively]. Additionally, dyspnea effects on mortality were more pronounced in overweight/obese and older subjects and in subjects with better lung function. These results show that dyspnea is associated with mortality in a severity-dependent manner. Furthermore this study is the first showing that dyspnea remission normalizes mortality risk. Having or developing dyspnea is a risk factor for mortality.

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