The multiple dimensions of dyspnea: review and hypotheses

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2009 May 30;167(1):53-60. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2008.07.012. Epub 2008 Jul 25.


Although dyspnea is a common and troubling symptom, our understanding of the neurophysiology of dyspnea is woefully incomplete. Most measurements of dyspnea treat it as a single entity. Although the multidimensional dyspnea concept has been mentioned for many decades, only recently has the concept been the subject of experimental tests. Emerging evidence has begun to favor the hypothesis that dyspnea comprises multiple dimensions or components that can be measured as different entities. Most recently, studies have begun to show that there is a separable 'affective dimension' (i.e. unpleasantness and emotional impact). Understanding of the multidimensional measurement of pain is far in advance of dyspnea, and has enabled progress in the neurophysiology of pain, including identification of separate neural structures subserving various elements of pain perception. We propose here a multidimensional model of dyspnea based on a state-of-the-art pain model, and review existing evidence in the light of this model.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pain / physiopathology*