[dys- + -pnea]
Labored or difficult breathing. It is normal when it is due to vigorous work or athletic activity and should quickly return to normal when the activity ceases.
SYN: SEE: air hunger; SEE: breathlessness
The patient reports that the work of breathing is excessive. Signs of dyspnea include audibly labored breathing, hyperpnea and/or tachypnea, retraction of intercostal spaces, a distressed facial expression, dilated nostrils, paradoxical movements of the chest and abdomen, gasping, and occasionally cyanosis.
The patient is assessed for airway patency, and a complete respiratory assessment is performed to identify additional signs and symptoms of respiratory distress and alleviating and aggravating factors. Arterial blood gas values are obtained if indicated, and oxygen saturation is monitored. The patient is placed in a high Fowler, orthopneic, or other comfortable position. Oxygen and medications are administered as prescribed, and the patient's response is evaluated and documented. The nurse or respiratory therapist remains with the patient until breathing becomes less labored and anxiety has decreased. Blood work, pulmonary function studies, chest x-ray, ECG, CT-pulmonary angiography, or other studies may be used as part of the diagnostic workup, depending on findings of the history and physical examination.
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