Living with breathlessness: a systematic literature review and qualitative synthesis

Ann Hutchinson, Natalie Barclay-Klingle, Kathleen Galvin, Miriam J. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Question: What is the experience of people living with breathlessness due to medical conditions, those caring for and those treating them, with regard to quality of life and the nature of clinical interactions? Methods: Electronic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL Plus, PsycINFO) were searched (1987 to October 2017; English language), for qualitative studies exploring the experience of chronic breathlessness (patients, carers, clinicians). Two independent reviewers screened titles, abstracts and papers retrieved against inclusion criteria. Disagreements were resolved with a third reviewer. Primary qualitative data were extracted and synthesised using thematic synthesis. Results: Inclusion and synthesis of 101/2,303 international papers produced four descriptive themes: 1) widespread effects of breathlessness, 2) coping, 3) help-seeking behaviour, and 4) clinicians’ responsiveness to the symptom of breathlessness. The themes were combined to form the concept of “Breathing Space”, to show how engaged coping and appropriate help-seeking (patient) and attention to symptom (clinician) helps maximise the patient’s quality of living with breathlessness. Answers: Breathlessness has widespread impact on patient and carer and affects Breathing Space. The degree of Breathing Space is influenced by interaction between the patient’s coping style, their help-seeking behaviour and their clinician’s responsiveness to breathlessness itself in addition to managing the underlying disease.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number61
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

This is an author-submitted, peer-reviewed version of a manuscript that has been accepted for publication in the European Respiratory Journal, prior to copy-editing, formatting and typesetting. This version of the manuscript may not be duplicated or reproduced without prior permission from the copyright owner, the European Respiratory Society. The publisher is not responsible or liable for any errors or omissions in this version of the manuscript or in any version derived from it by any other parties. The final, copy-edited, published article, which is the version of record, is available without a subscription 18 months after the date of issue publication.


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