Breathing retraining - a five-year follow-up of patients with dysfunctional breathing

Respir Med. 2011 Aug;105(8):1153-9. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2011.03.006. Epub 2011 Mar 31.


Introduction: The term dysfunctional breathing (DB) has been introduced to describe patients who display divergent breathing patterns and have breathing problems that cannot be attributed to a specific medical diagnosis. Patients with DB are often misdiagnosed as having asthma.

Objectives: To describe patients with DB, five years after a breathing retraining intervention.

Methods: Out of initially 25 patients with DB and 25 age and sex-matched patients with asthma, 22 patients with DB and 23 patients with asthma (ages 25-78 years) were followed up after five years. Data were collected from posted self-report questionnaires. Only patients with DB had received breathing retraining, consisting of information, advice and diaphragmatic breathing. Patients were evaluated regarding quality of life (SF-36), anxiety, depression, sense of coherence, hyperventilation, influence on daily life, emergency room (ER) visits, and symptoms associated with DB.

Results: Quality of life (SF-36), physical component summary scale (PCS), had improved in patients with DB from 43 to 47 (p = 0.03). The number of ER visits had decreased from 18 to 2 in patients with DB (p = 0.02). Symptoms associated with DB had decreased extensively, from a mean score of 6.9 to 2.7, on a DB criterion list (p < 0.001). Patients with DB were less impaired by their breathing problems both in daily life and when exercising (p < 0.001). The only difference found over time in the asthma group concerned quality of health, bodily pain, which had deteriorated, from 77 to 68 (p = 0.049).

Conclusion: This five-year follow-up study indicates that patients with dysfunctional breathing benefit from breathing retraining.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hyperventilation / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Respiration Disorders / diagnosis
  • Respiration Disorders / psychology
  • Respiration Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Self Report
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents