Reliability and validity of dyspnea measures in patients with obstructive lung disease

Int J Behav Med. 1995;2(2):118-34. doi: 10.1207/s15327558ijbm0202_3.


Dyspnea, the clinical term for shortness of breath, is the primary symptom and an important outcome measure in evaluations of patients with lung disease. It is a subjective symptom that has proved difficult to quantify. Many dyspnea measures are available, yet it is difficult, based on the existing literature, to determine the most reliable and valid. In this study, we evaluated 6 measures of dyspnea for reliability and validity: (a) Baseline Dyspnea Index (BDI) and Transition Dyspnea Index, (b) UCSD Shortness of Breath Questionnaire (SOBQ),(c) American Thoracic Society Dyspnea Scale, (d) Oxygen Cost Diagram, (e) Visual Analog Scale, and (f) Borg Scale. Subjects were 143 patients (74 women) and 69 men) with obstructive lung disease, ages 40 to 86, FEV(1.0) 0.36 to 3.53 L, FVC 1.07 to 5.74 L. Dyspnea measures were assessed for test-retest reliability internal consistency, interrater reliability, and construct validity (i.e., correlations among dyspnea measures and correlations of dyspnea measures with exercise tolerance, health-related quality of life, lung function, anxiety, and depression). Results suggest that the SOBQ and BDI demonstrated the highest levels of reliability and validity among the dyspnea measures examined.