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dyspnea, nursing interventions, palliative care, state of the science



  1. Brennan, Caitlin W. PhD, RN
  2. Mazanec, Polly PhD, ACNP, AOCN, FPCN


Dyspnea, or breathlessness, is a common symptom in patients with cancer, heart failure, and chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The symptom distress related to dyspnea can be quite debilitating and often severely impedes quality of life. Patients have used words such as "suffocation" to describe this complex, subjective, and distressing phenomenon. This article provides a summary of the state of the science of the clinical management of dyspnea across the palliative care continuum. The main finding of the review of the literature is that oral and parenteral administrations of morphine are the criterion standard for the pharmacological management of dyspnea. Responses to common myths are provided, along with a case study that highlights the relevant nursing implications in the clinical and home settings.