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.
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