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Introduction: Chronic breathlessness occurs across many different conditions, often independently of disease severity. Yet, despite being strongly linked to adverse outcomes, the consideration of chronic breathlessness as a stand-alone therapeutic target remains limited. Here we use data-driven techniques to identify and confirm the stability of underlying features (factors) driving breathlessness across different cardiorespiratory diseases. Methods: Study of questionnaire data on 182 participants with main diagnoses of asthma (21.4%), COPD (24.7%), heart failure (19.2%), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (18.7%), other interstitial lung disease (5.5%), and “other diagnoses” (8.8%) were entered into an exploratory factor analysis (EFA). Participants were stratified based on their EFA factor scores. We then examined model stability using six-month follow-up data and established the most compact set of measures describing the breathlessness experience. Results: In this dataset, we have identified four stable factors that underlie the experience of breathlessness. These factors were assigned the following descriptive labels: 1) body burden, 2) affect/mood, 3) breathing burden and 4) anger/frustration. Stratifying patients by their scores across the four factors revealed two groups corresponding to high and low burden. These two groups were not related to the primary disease diagnosis and remained stable after six months. Discussion: In this work we identified and confirmed the stability of underlying features of breathlessness. Previous work in this domain has been largely limited to single-diagnosis patient groups without subsequent re-testing of model stability. This work provides further evidence supporting disease independent approaches to assess breathlessness.


Journal article


European Respiratory Journal Open Research


European Respiratory Society

Publication Date