Context: Dyspnea is a disabling distressing symptom that is common in advanced disease affecting millions of people worldwide. Current palliative strategies are partially effective in managing this symptom; facial cooling has been shown to reduce the sensation of breathlessness when induced in volunteers but has not been formally investigated in dyspnea associated with disease.
Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate whether a handheld fan reduces the sensation of breathlessness in such patients, enhancing palliative approaches.
Methods: The effectiveness of a handheld fan (blowing air across the nose and mouth) in reducing the sensation of breathlessness was assessed in patients with advanced disease. Fifty participants were randomized to use a handheld fan for five minutes directed to their face or leg first and then crossed over to the other treatment. The primary outcome measure was a decrease of greater than 1cm in breathlessness recorded on a 10 cm visual analog scale (VAS).
Results: There was a significant difference in the VAS scores between the two treatments, with a reduction in breathlessness when the fan was directed to the face (P=0.003).
Conclusion: This study supports the hypothesis that a handheld fan directed to the face reduces the sensation of breathlessness. The fan was acceptable to participants: it is inexpensive, portable, enhances self-efficacy, and available internationally. It should be recommended as part of a palliative management strategy for reducing breathlessness associated with advanced disease.
Copyright 2010 U.S. Cancer Pain Relief Committee. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.