Study objectives: We investigated the qualitative components of a wide range of Chinese descriptors of dyspnea and associated symptoms, and their relevance for clinical diagnosis.
Measurements: Sixty-one spontaneously reported descriptors were elicited in Chinese patients to make a symptom checklist, which was administered to new groups of patients with different cardiopulmonary diseases, to patients with medically unexplained dyspnea and to healthy subjects.
Results: Test-retest reliability was satisfactory for most of the descriptors. A principal component analysis on 61 descriptors yielded the following eight factors: dyspnea-effort of breathing; dyspnea-affective aspect; wheezing; anxiety; tingling; palpitation; coughing and sputum; and dying experience. Although the descriptors of dyspnea-effort of breathing resembled Western wordings and were shared by patients with a variety of diseases, the descriptors of dyspnea-affective aspect appeared to be more culturally specific and were primarily linked to the diagnosis of medically unexplained dyspnea, whereas wheezing was specifically linked to asthma.
Conclusions: Three factors of breathlessness were found in Chinese. The descriptors of dyspnea-effort of breathing and wheezing appear to be similar to Western descriptors, whereas the dyspnea-affective aspect seems to bear cultural specificity.