Comparison of clinical dyspnea ratings and psychophysical measurements of respiratory sensation in obstructive airway disease

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1987 Jun;135(6):1229-33. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1987.135.6.1229.


To investigate the hypothesis that clinical methods and psychophysical testing provide different information about breathlessness, we compared dyspnea ratings from a modified Medical Research Council (MRC) scale, the Oxygen-Cost Diagram (OCD), and the Baseline Dyspnea Index (BDI) with the perceived magnitude of added loads in 24 patients with obstructive airway disease (OAD) who experienced dyspnea on exertion. Age of the patients was 55.8 +/- 13.7 yr (mean +/- SD), FEV1 was 1.77 +/- 0.81 L, and FEV1/FVC ratio was 52.6 +/- 10.5%. Dyspnea ratings were obtained for each clinical method by 2 independent observers; estimates of the magnitude of 5 resistive loads (10 to 85 cm H2O/L/s) were obtained using the Borg category scale (0 to 10). For comparative purposes, 12 age-matched (48.9 +/- 13.5 yr) healthy subjects were also studied. Clinical ratings of dyspnea obtained in patients for MRC (range, 0 to 4), OCD (range, 23 to 98), and BDI (range, 0.5 to 12.0) were all highly interrelated (rs = 0.79, -0.83, and -0.71; p less than 0.001 for all comparisons). Exponents of the psychophysical power function for resistive breathing loads were similar for patients with OAD (0.57 +/- 0.27) and control subjects (0.63 +/- 0.18) (p = NS). Clinical dyspnea scores were significantly correlated with both FEV1 and FVC; however, neither dyspnea ratings nor lung function were significantly related to the exponent for added breathing loads in the patient group. These comparisons indicate that in patients with symptomatic OAD, clinical methods for rating dyspnea are interrelated and are correlated with lung function, but are independent of perception of resistive breathing loads.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology*
  • Dyspnea / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychophysiology
  • Respiration*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Sensation / physiology*