Strategies to relieve dyspnoea in patients with advanced chronic respiratory diseases. A narrative review

N Ambrosino, C Fracchia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: The management of symptoms in patients with advanced chronic respiratory diseases needs more attention. This review summarizes the latest evidence on interventions to relieve dyspnoea in these patients.

METHODS: We searched randomised controlled trials, observational studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses published between 1990 and 2019 in English in PubMed data base using the keywords. Dyspnoea, Breathlessness AND: pharmacological and non pharmacological therapy, oxygen, non invasive ventilation, pulmonary rehabilitation, alternative medicine, intensive care, palliative care, integrated care, self-management. Studies on drugs (e.g. bronchodilators) or interventions (e.g. lung volume reduction surgery, lung transplantation) to manage underlying conditions and complications, or tools for relief of associated symptoms such as pain, are not addressed.

RESULTS: Relief of dyspnoea has received relatively little attention in clinical practice and literature. Many pharmacological and non pharmacological therapies are available to relieve dyspnoea, and improve patients' quality of life. There is a need for greater knowledge of the benefits and risks of these tools by doctors, patients and families to avoid unnecessary fears which might reduce or delay the delivery of appropriate care. We need services for multidisciplinary care in early and late phases of diseases. Early integration of palliative care with respiratory, primary care, and rehabilitation services can help patients and caregivers.

CONCLUSION: Relief of dyspnoea as well as of any distressing symptom is a human right and an ethical duty for doctors and caregivers who have many potential resources to achieve this.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-298
Number of pages10
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 28 2019


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