Breathlessness Assessment

Assessment of the Breathless Patient

  • Determine the correct diagnosis
  • Consider any other contributing factors e.g. dysrhythmia, anaemia
  • Is there anything that can be corrected or treated? Seek advice if unsure
  • Consider the use of oximetry, if available, to guide if oxygen therapy is likely to be of benefit
    (i.e. if oxygen saturation less than 90%)
  • Consider psychological factors especially anxiety and the fear of choking/suffocation
  • Decide on the optimal management
  • Only consider investigations which are likely to lead to a change in clinical management


This Guide is intended for use by healthcare professionals and the expectation is that they will use clinical judgement, medical, and nursing knowledge in applying the general principles and recommendations contained within. They are not meant to replace the many available texts on the subject of palliative care.

Some of the management strategies describe the use of drugs outside their licensed indications. They are, however, established and accepted good practice. Please refer to the current BNF for further guidance.

While WMPCPS takes every care to compile accurate information , we cannot guarantee its correctness and completeness and it is subject to change. We do not accept responsibility for any loss, damage or expense resulting from the use of this information.