This post is part of a series called “Cardinal Presentations”, based on Rosen’s Emergency Medicine (8th edition).
Causes of Dyspnea
Findings in Selected Causes of Dyspnea
|Anaphylaxis||Exposure to allergen||Abrupt onset, facial swelling||Stridor, wheezing, hives|
|PE||Immobilization, malignancy, prior DVT/PE, surgery, OCP||Abrupt onset, pleuritic chest pain||Tachycardia, hypoxia||ECG (RV strain)
CT PA, D-dimer
LE US (DVT)
|Pneumonia||Exposure, tobacco use||Fever, productive cough||Focal rales||CXR
|Pneumothorax||Trauma, thin male||Abrupt onset, chest pain||Decreased BS, subQ emphysema, JVD and tracheal deviation if tension||CXR
|Fluid overload||Dietary indiscretion, medication non-adherence||Orthopnea, PND||JVD, S3/S4, peripheral edema||CXR
|COPD/Asthma||Tobacco use, personal/family history||Progressive||Retractions, accessory muscle use, wheezing||CXR
US (distinguish from fluid overload)
|Malignancy||Tobacco use, weight loss||Hemoptysis||CXR
- Braithwaite, S., & Perina, D. (2013). Dyspnea. In Rosen’s Emergency Medicine – Concepts and Clinical Practice (8th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 206-213). Elsevier Health Sciences.