Cardiopulmonary Symptoms

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Cardiopulmonary Symptoms

Albert J. Heuer

Symptoms are subjective clinical findings generally reported by the patient during or shortly after the initial interview (described in Chapter 2). Clinical signs, on the other hand, are objective and measurable, such as the vital signs and laboratory studies detailed in subsequent chapters of this text. Respiratory therapists (RTs) will encounter patients with a variety of symptoms. The primary symptoms associated with cardiopulmonary disorders are cough, sputum production, hemoptysis, shortness of breath (dyspnea), and chest pain. Other less specific complaints include dizziness and fainting; ankle swelling (peripheral edema); fever, chills, and night sweats; snoring; personality changes; daytime somnolence (sleepiness); and gastric reflux. This chapter defines the terms associated with these symptoms, briefly discusses their causes (etiology), and describes how these symptoms relate to commonly associated diseases. The more familiar RTs are with these symptoms and their characteristics, the better they can ask relevant questions, assist the patient care team in making a correct diagnosis, and help design an appropriate interdisciplinary treatment plan.


Cough is one of the most common, though nonspecific, symptoms seen in patients with pulmonary disease. It is the powerful protective reflex arising from stimulation of receptors located in the pharynx, larynx, trachea, large bronchi, and even the lung and the visceral pleura. Coughing can be caused by inflammatory, mechanical, chemical, or thermal stimulation of cough receptors found anywhere from the oropharynx to the terminal bronchioles or simply by tactile pressure in the ear canal. There are many conditions that can make a patient cough. The key to determining the cause in many cases can be found in a careful review of the history, physical examination, and chest radiograph (Table 3-1).


Possible Causes of Cough Receptor Stimulation

Types of Stimulation Possible Causes
Inflammatory Infection, lung abscess, drug reaction, allergy, edema, hyperemia, collagen vascular disease, radiotherapy, pneumoconiosis, tuberculosis
Mechanical Inhaled dusts, suction catheter, food
Obstructive Foreign bodies, aspirations of nasal secretions, tumor or granulomas within or around the lung, aortic aneurysm
Airway wall tension Pulmonary edema, atelectasis, fibrosis, chronic interstitial pneumonitis
Chemical Inhaled irritant gases, fumes, smoke
Temperature Inhaled hot or cold air
Ear Tactile pressure in the ear canal (Arnold nerve response) or from otitis media

Impulses generated by stimulation of the cough receptors are carried by afferent pathways of the reflex, primarily the vagus, phrenic, glossopharyngeal, and trigeminal nerves, to the cough center located diffusely in the medulla, separate from the respiratory center. Conduction of the impulses down the efferent pathway of the reflex stimulates the smooth muscles of the larynx and tracheobronchial tree and the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles through the phrenic and other spinal motor nerves. The cough mechanism can be divided into the following three phases:

The cough reflex may be voluntary or involuntary and normally occurs in everyone from time to time. The efficiency of the cough (force of the airflow) is determined by the depth of the inspiration and amount of pressure that can be generated in the airways. The effectiveness of a cough is reduced if one or more of the following conditions exist:

Causes and Clinical Presentation

Most patients will have a single cause for their cough; however, in some patients, two or three simultaneous causes (comorbidities) may be present. Cough may be acute (sudden onset, usually severe with a short course, self-limited), chronic (persistent and troublesome for more than 3 weeks), or paroxysmal (periodic, prolonged, and forceful episodes). An acute self-limited cough is usually due to a viral infection involving the upper airway, which usually resolves in a few days. A chronic persistent cough is most commonly caused by postnasal drip syndrome, followed by acute asthma, acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), allergic rhinitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, and other conditions such as left heart failure, bronchogenic cancer, and sarcoidosis. In smokers, chronic cough is usually due to chronic bronchitis (“smoker’s cough”). Still other chronic coughs may result from certain medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors commonly prescribed for congestive heart failure and other cardiac conditions. Though not fully understood, patients taking ACE inhibitors may develop a chronic dry cough, possibly as a result of an increase in cough mediators that accumulate in the upper airway. Hence, the medication history described in Chapter 2 can provide vital clues to the underlying cause. Aggravating, painful, or persistent cough or cough equivalent, such as throat clearing, is not normal and warrants further clinical investigation.

Cough may occur in conjunction with other pulmonary symptoms such as wheezing, stridor, chest pain, and dyspnea. In addition, cough may cause problems. The vigorous muscular activity and high intrathoracic pressures created by forceful coughing may produce a number of complications, such as torn chest muscles, rib fractures, disruption of surgical wounds, pneumothorax or pneumomediastinum, syncope (fainting), arrhythmia, esophageal rupture, and urinary incontinence.


Cough should be described as effective (strong enough to clear the airway) or inadequate (audible but too weak to mobilize the secretions), productive (mucus or other material is expelled by the cough), or dry and nonproductive (moisture or secretions are not produced). Because dry coughs often become productive, a chronologic report of the circumstances surrounding the change and a description of the sputum should be recorded.

The quality, time, and setting in which a cough occurs may also provide some clues to the location and type of disorder (Table 3-2). Barking (like a seal), brassy (harsh, dry), and hoarse coughs, as well as those associated with inspiratory stridor, are usually heard when there is a problem with the larynx (e.g., infection or tumor). Wheezy coughs (accompanied by whistling or sighing sounds) suggest bronchial disorders. Acute, productive coughs are most often seen with allergic asthma as well as bacterial or viral respiratory infections, and chronic productive coughs are generally indicative of significant bronchopulmonary disease (e.g., chronic bronchitis). Hacking (frequent brief periods of coughing or clearing the throat) may be dry and the result of smoking, a viral infection, a nervous habit, or difficult-to-move secretions, which may occur with postnasal drip.


Terms Used to Describe Cough

Description Possible Causes
Acute (<3 wk) or recurrent (adults) productive Postnasal drip, allergies, infections, especially viral URI, bronchitis
Acute or recurrent (adults) and nonproductive Laryngitis, inhalation of irritant gases
Chronic productive Bronchiectasis, chronic bronchitis, lung abscess, asthma, fungal infections, bacterial pneumonias, tuberculosis
Chronic (>3 wk) or recurrent (adults) and nonproductive Postnasal drip, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, bronchiectasis, COPD, lung tumor, sarcoidosis, ACE inhibitors, left heart failure
Recurrent (children) Viral bronchitis, asthma, allergies
Dry Viral infections, inhalation of irritant gases, interstitial lung diseases, pleural effusion, cardiac condition, nervous habit, tumor, radiation therapy, chemotherapy
Dry, progressing to productive Atypical and mycoplasmal pneumonia, AIDS, legionnaires disease, asthma, silicosis, pulmonary embolus and edema, lung abscess, emphysema (late in disease), smoking
Inadequate, weak Debility, weakness, oversedation, pain, poor motivation, emphysema
Paroxysmal (especially night) Aspiration, asthma, left heart failure
Barking Epiglottal disease, croup, influenza, laryngotracheal bronchitis
Brassy or hoarse Laryngitis, laryngotracheal bronchitis, laryngeal paralysis, pressure on recurrent laryngeal nerve: mediastinal tumor, aortic aneurysm, left atrial enlargement
Inspiratory stridor Tracheal or mainstem bronchial obstruction, croup, epiglottitis
Wheezy Bronchospasm, asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis
Morning Chronic bronchitis, smoking
Associated with position change or lying down Bronchiectasis, left heart failure, chronic postnasal drip or sinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux with aspiration
Associated with eating or drinking Neuromuscular disease of the upper airway, esophageal problems, aspiration

ACE, angiotensin-converting enzyme; AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; TB, tuberculosis; URI, upper respiratory infection (common cold).

Acute onset or change in a cough is obvious to the patient and family and probably to the interviewer; therefore, an accurate history is very important and easily obtained. However, careful inquiry is often required to identify the characteristics of a chronic cough. Because coughing and sputum production are generally not socially acceptable, patients may deny or minimize the presence of the cough or learn to adapt to the extent that they may even be unaware of coughing chronically. Questioning family members or close friends may provide valuable information about the presence and characteristics of a cough.



Ask the patient to describe the cough in his or her own words; if unable to give a description, use suggestions of descriptive words.

• Can you describe your cough? How long have you had the cough?

• When did the cough start? Did the cough start suddenly? What were you doing when the cough started?

• Do you smoke? If so, what do you smoke? How much and for how many years?

• Do you have postnasal drip? Do you wheeze? Do you have heartburn? Do you notice an acid or bitter taste in your mouth?

• Do you cough up sputum or mucus and, if so, what is the amount, color, thickness, and odor?

• Is your cough better or worse at certain times of the day and does it wake you up?

• Do you cough on most days? Do you cough more during a particular day of the week? A particular season of the year?

• Is the cough worse in any position or when you are in a certain location?

• Is the cough associated with eating, drinking, or medications?

• Are there any other symptoms associated with the cough like chest pain? Wheezing? Fever? Runny nose? Hoarseness? Night sweats? Weight loss? Headache? Dizziness? Loss of consciousness?

• What relieves the cough?

• Have you had the flu or a “cold” with a cough recently?

• Have you ever been exposed to anyone with tuberculosis, the flu or a “cold”?

• Do you have contact with animals? If so, what type, when, and how often?

• Are you taking ACE inhibitors? Have you taken ACE inhibitors in the past?

• Are you under stress?

• Is your cough dry? Do you clear your throat frequently?

• Have you been diagnosed with nasal allergies or allergic rhinitis?

• Do you have chronic bad breath (halitosis)? Do you have facial pain?

• Do you sleep with more than one pillow?

• Do you cough after exercise or physical exertion?

• What is your occupation? Is your cough worse during or immediately after work?

Sputum Production

Sputum is the substance expelled from the tracheobronchial tree, pharynx, mouth, sinuses, and nose by coughing or clearing the throat. The term phlegm refers strictly to secretions from the lungs and tracheobronchial tree. These respiratory tract secretions may contain a variety of materials, including mucus, cellular debris, microorganisms, blood, pus, and foreign particles, and should not be confused with saliva. The tracheobronchial tree normally secretes up to 100 mL of sputum each day. Sputum is moved upward by the wavelike motion of the cilia (tiny hairlike structures) lining the larynx, trachea, and bronchi, and it is usually swallowed unnoticed. As previously mentioned, sputum may be difficult or impossible for the patient to describe accurately because of the social stigma and lack of awareness. Thus, collection and inspection of a sputum sample is often necessary to evaluate the patient’s pulmonary status.

Causes and Descriptions

Excessive sputum production is most often caused by inflammation of the mucous glands that line the tracheobronchial tree. Inflammation of these glands occurs most often with infection, cigarette smoking, and allergies.

Sputum should be described as to the color, consistency, odor, quantity, time of day, and presence of blood or other distinguishing matter. The amount may vary from scanty (a few teaspoons) to copious (as much as a pint or more), as seen in certain chronic bronchial infections and bronchiectasis. These characteristics of the sputum may be highly indicative of the underlying disorder (Table 3-3). Though sputum culture and sensitivity tests described in Chapter 7 provide for a more in depth microbiologic examination of sputum, bedside examination can be helpful as an initial screening tool.


Presumptive Sputum Analysis

Appearance of Sputum Possible Cause
Clear, colorless, like egg white Normal
Black Smoke or coal dust inhalation
Brownish Cigarette smoker
Frothy white or pink Pulmonary edema
Sand or small stone Aspiration of foreign material, broncholithiasis
Purulent (contains pus) Infection, pneumonia caused by:
 Apple-green, thick Haemophilus influenzae
 Pink, thin, blood-streaked Streptococci or staphylococci
 Red currant jelly Klebsiella species
 Rusty Pneumococci
 Yellow or green, copious Pseudomonas species pneumonia, advanced chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis (separates into layers)
 Foul odor (fetid) Lung abscess, aspiration, anaerobic infections, bronchiectasis
Mucoid (white-gray and thick) Emphysema, pulmonary tuberculosis, early chronic bronchitis, neoplasms, asthma
 Grayish Legionnaires disease
 Silicone-like casts Bronchial asthma
Mucopurulent As above with infection, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis
 Blood-streaked or hemoptysis (frankly bloody) Bronchogenic carcinoma, tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, coagulopathy, pulmonary contusion or abscess (see discussion of causes of hemoptysis)

The consistency of sputum may be described as thin, thick, viscous (gelatinous), tenacious (extremely sticky), or frothy. Color depends on the origin and cause of the sputum production. Descriptions for the color of sputum include mucoid (clear, thin, and may be somewhat viscid as a result of oversecretion of bronchial mucus), mucopurulent (thick, viscous, colored, and often in globs with an offensive odor), and blood-tinged. Copious, foul-smelling (fetid) sputum that separates into layers when standing occurs with bronchiectasis and lung abscess when the patient’s position is changed.

Morning expectoration implies accumulation of secretions during the night and is commonly seen with bronchitis. Nonpurulent, silicone-like bronchial casts are seen with asthma. Sudden large amounts of sputum production may be indicative of a bronchopleural fistula.



Hemoptysis, expectoration of sputum containing blood, varies in severity from slight streaking to frank bleeding. It can be an alarming symptom that may suggest serious disease and massive hemorrhage. In more severe forms, it is a frightening experience for both the patient and the RT or other member of the health care team.


Differential diagnosis is complex and includes bronchopulmonary, cardiovascular, hematologic, and other systemic disorders (Box 3-1). A history of pulmonary or cardiovascular disease; cigarette smoking and tobacco use; trauma; aspiration of a foreign body; repeated and severe lung infections; bleeding disorder; use of anticoagulant agents (warfarin or heparin), aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, or chemotherapeutic agents; or inhaling crack cocaine suggests the possible cause of hemoptysis. A history of travel to places where tuberculosis or fungal infections, such as coccidioidomycosis or histoplasmosis, are prevalent, including central Africa (tuberculosis) and the San Joaquin Valley of California (coccidioidomycosis), may also help identify the underlying disorder.

The site of bleeding may be anywhere in the respiratory tract, including the nose or mouth. The amount and mechanisms of bleeding are varied. Tissues engorged by inflammation or backpressure from heart failure or other cardiac problems may bleed easily and cause frothy pink sputum. Trauma bruises tissue or may tear a vessel. Chronic or repeated respiratory infections resulting in bronchiectasis can predispose the patient to bleeding. A tumor or granuloma can erode surrounding tissue or the bronchial wall. An acute infective process can create an abscess in the bronchial tree or lung parenchyma, which can erode into another structure (e.g., bronchopleural fistula) or completely through a vessel wall. If the vessel is an artery, hemorrhage can be sudden and massive and may lead to death due to excessive blood loss.

Historically, tuberculosis and bronchiectasis were the most common causes of hemoptysis. Erosive bronchitis in smokers with chronic bronchitis and bronchogenic carcinoma are now also recognized as frequent causes of hemoptysis. In fact, blood-streaked sputum may be the only hint that bronchogenic cancer has developed in the smoker.


Obtaining a description of the amount, odor, color, and appearance of blood produced, as well as the acuteness or chronicity of the bleeding, may provide a clue to the source of bleeding. The most common causes of streaky hemoptysis are pulmonary infection (chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, or bacterial pneumonias), lung cancer, and thromboemboli. Small stones or gravel mixed with the sputum and blood suggests broncholithiasis.

Careful evaluation and description of hemoptysis is crucial because it can include clots of blood as well as blood-tinged sputum. Coughing up clots of blood is a symptom of extreme importance suggesting serious illness. Massive hemoptysis (400 mL in 3 hours or more than 600 mL in 24 hours) is seen with lung cancers, tuberculosis, bronchiectasis, and trauma. It is an emergency condition associated with possible mortality. Immediate action is required to maintain an adequate airway, and emergency bronchoscopy and surgery may be necessary.

Associated symptoms may also provide a clue to the source of bleeding. Sometimes patients can describe a sensation, often warmth, in the area where the blood originates. Others perceive a bubbling sensation in the tracheobronchial tree followed by expectoration of blood. Hemoptysis associated with sudden onset of chest pain and dyspnea in a patient at risk for venous stasis of the legs must prompt evaluation for pulmonary embolism and possible infarction. Frothy, blood-tinged sputum associated with paroxysmal cough accompanies cardiac-induced pulmonary edema.

Hemoptysis without severe coughing suggests a cavitary lesion in the lung or bronchial tumor.

Hemoptysis versus Hematemesis

“Spitting up blood,” as patients frequently call it, may be confused with blood originating in the oropharynx, esophagus, or stomach. The patient with a nosebleed at night could cough up blood in the morning. The presence of symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, especially with a history of alcoholism or cirrhosis of the liver, may suggest the esophagus or stomach as the source. Conversely, vomiting of blood may sometimes manifest from bronchopulmonary bleeding. When bleeding occurs during the night and the blood reaches the oropharynx, it may be swallowed without the patient waking. The swallowed blood may act as an irritant, and the patient may vomit early in the morning. Careful questioning and often examination of the bloody sputum are required to distinguish hemoptysis from hematemesis (vomited blood) (Table 3-4). It is important to obtain a detailed sequence of events to determine whether the blood originated in the respiratory tract and was swallowed and then vomited, or the blood was vomited, aspirated, and later expectorated.


Distinguishing Characteristics of Hemoptysis and Hematemesis

Characteristic Hemoptysis Hematemesis
History Cardiopulmonary disease Gastrointestinal disease
As stated by the patient Coughed up from lungs/chest Vomited from stomach
Associated symptoms Dyspnea, pain or tickling sensation in chest Nausea, pain referred to stomach
Blood: pH Alkaline Acid
Mixed with Sputum Food
Froth May be present Absent
Color Bright red Dark, clotted, “coffee grounds”



Ask the patient the following questions to help obtain an accurate and impartial history:

• Do you smoke? If so, how much and what do you smoke?

• Do you use smokeless tobacco? If so, how much and what do you use?

• Did you start coughing up blood suddenly?

• How long have you noticed the blood?

• Do you have a fever? Do you have a cough?

• Do you cough up anything else with the blood? Can you describe what it looks like?

• Is the sputum blood-tinged or are there actual clots of blood?

• Have there been recurrent episodes of coughing up blood?

• Do you have chest pain?

• What seems to bring on the coughing up of blood? Is it brought on by vomiting, coughing, or nausea?

• Have you felt any unusual sensations in your chest after you cough up the blood? Before you cough up the blood? If yes, where? Can you tell me how it feels?

• Have you had a recent nosebleed?

• Have you been involved in a recent accident or had an injury to your chest, side, or back?

• Have you traveled lately?

• Have you ever had tuberculosis? Have you been exposed to anyone who has had tuberculosis?

• Are you HIV positive? Do you have a history of cancer?

• Have you had recent surgery?

• Have you had night sweats? Shortness of breath? Irregular heartbeats? Hoarseness? Weight loss? Swelling or pain in your legs?

• Is there a family history of coughing up blood? Are you aware of any bleeding tendency in you or your family?

• Have you been exposed to anything at work or hobbies?

• Do you take any blood thinners or aspirin? If yes, how much and how often? Do you take oral contraceptives? Do you use injection drugs?

Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Shortness of breath (SOB), as it is commonly abbreviated in the medical record) or difficult breathing as perceived by the patient is the most distressing symptom of respiratory disease and is also a cardinal symptom of cardiac disease. Dyspnea may also be associated with metabolic diseases, hematologic disorders, toxic ingestion, or psychiatric conditions. Difficult breathing impairs the ability to work or exercise and may interfere with the simplest activities of daily living such as walking, eating, bathing, speaking, and sleeping. In patients with pulmonary disease, it is the single most important factor limiting their ability to function on a day-to-day basis and is frequently the reason the patient seeks medical care.

Dyspnea (dys, difficult; pnea, breathing) is defined as a subjective experience of breathing discomfort that consists of qualitatively distinct sensations that vary in intensity. The sensations associated with dyspnea range from a slight awareness of breathing to severe respiratory distress and may be mixed with anxiety in severe cases. The sensations experienced by the patient are a product of various factors such as the severity of the physiologic impairment and the psychological makeup of the patient.

Subjectiveness of Dyspnea

Dyspnea may be difficult to evaluate because it is so subjective. The sensation of dyspnea is made up of the following components:

1. Sensory input to the cerebral cortex. Multiple sources of sensory information from mechanoreceptors in the upper airway, thorax, and muscles are integrated in the central nervous system and sent to the sensorimotor cortex in the brain. In general, the sensation of dyspnea is related to the intensity of the input from the thoracic structures and from chemoreceptors. It varies directly with ventilatory demand such as exercise and inversely with ventilatory capacity (ability to move gas in and out of the lung). The more stimulation of the drive to breathe when ventilatory abnormalities exist, the greater the dyspnea.

2. Perception of the sensation. Perception relies on interpretation of the information arriving at the sensorimotor cortex, and interpretation is highly dependent on the psychological makeup of the person. The emotional state, distraction, and belief of significance can influence the perception of dyspnea.

A patient’s perception of dyspnea may have no relation to the patient’s breathing appearance. Remember, dyspnea is subjective—a symptom—and what the patient feels. A patient may have labored and rapid breathing and deny feeling short of breath. Conversely, a patient may appear to be breathing comfortably and slowly but may feel breathless. You can never assume that a patient with a rapid respiratory rate is dyspneic. In addition, a patient’s complaint of dyspnea must be considered a symptom of a medical problem and must be taken seriously until proved otherwise. In fact, the onset of dyspnea may be the first clue to identifying serious problems.

Patients’ perceptions of dyspnea vary greatly. A healthy person notices the increased ventilatory demand required to climb stairs or to exercise but expects it and does not interpret it as unpleasant. In fact, the athlete may consider the breathlessness occurring after a sprint to be exhilarating and even a necessary aspect of physical conditioning. Patients, on the other hand, may describe the feeling as “breathless,” “short winded,” “feeling of suffocation,” or a sensation of “air hunger” at rest or during minimal exercise.

Dyspnea Scoring Systems

A variety of methods have been devised to help quantify dyspnea at a single point in time or to help track changes in dyspnea over time or with treatment. In the clinical setting, patients are frequently asked to rate the severity of a symptom, such as dyspnea or pain, using a severity scale of 0 to 10. The patient is asked a question such as “On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your shortness of breath when you are resting? Using this scale, 0 means no shortness of breath, and 10 means the worst or maximum shortness of breath.” The patient’s response may be recorded simply as “SOB at rest 7/10.”

Visual analog scales are straight lines, usually 10 cm long, with the words “Not Breathless” at one end and “Extremely Breathless” at the other end. The patient marks the line to indicate his or her level of respiratory discomfort. The score is measured as the length of the line between “Not Breathless” and the mark made by the patient. The score may be recorded as 5.5/10 or simply as 5.5 (the 10 is implied).

A Modified Borg Scale, such as shown in Table 3-5, also uses a 0 to 10 scoring system with descriptive terms to depict the perceived intensity of a symptom such as dyspnea after a specified task. Tools like the frequently used American Thoracic Society Shortness of Breath Scale (Table 3-6) specify the degree of dyspnea (slight, moderate, severe, or very severe) using descriptive terms as well as a numerical grading system. In addition, there are also questionnaires that attempt to quantify the severity of dyspnea by asking patients to rate their shortness of breath while performing a variety of activities of daily living.


Modified Borg Scale for Estimation of Subjective Symptoms

Rating Intensity of Sensation
0 Nothing at all
0.5 Very, very mild/weak
1 Very mild/weak
2 Mild/weak
3 Moderate
4 Somewhat severe/strong
7 Very severe/strong
9 Very, very severe/strong


American Thoracic Society Shortness of Breath Scale

Degree Description Grade
None No breathlessness except with exercise 0
Slight Troubled by shortness of breath when hurrying on the level or walking up a slight hill 1
Moderate Walks more slowly than people of the same age on the level because of breathlessness or has to stop for breath when walking at own pace on the level 2
Severe Stops for breath after walking about 100 yards or after a few minutes on the level 3
Very severe Too breathless to leave the house; breathless when dressing or undressing 4


(From Muza SR, Silverman MY, Gilmore GC et al: Comparison of scales used to quantitate the sense of effort to breath in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Am Rev Respir Dis 141:909, 1990.)

More recently, other scales have emerged for rating dyspnea in cardiopulmonary disease. One such scale is the Dyspnea-12 Survey, or “D-12,” which quantifies a patient’s level of breathlessness using 12 physical and psychosocial descriptors. This rating scale is showing particular promise in determining the severity of dyspnea in patients who have asthma.