Indian Journal of Palliative Care
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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 27  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 54--61

How physicians in South India recognize, assess, and manage people with chronic breathlessness syndrome: A thematic analysis

1 Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre, Hull York Medical School, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, UK
2 Department of Palliative Medicine, General Hospital Ernakulam, Kochi, Kerala, India; Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, UK
3 Department of Psychiatry, Believers Church Medical College, Thiruvalla, Kerala, India
4 Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, UK

Correspondence Address:
Matilda M M Barnes-Harris
Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre, Hull York Medical School, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_139_20

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Objectives: Chronic breathlessness syndrome has been defined to help clinicians actively seek, and patients legitimately present with, persistent breathlessness, and to drive services and research. However, views from low- to middle-income countries were not included. We aimed to explore the views of hospital physicians regarding chronic breathlessness syndrome, its recognition and management. Methods: This was a secondary analysis of qualitative data collected during a service development project. Three focus groups of physicians caring for patients with chronic breathlessness in a single tertiary hospital in South India were conducted in English, audio-recorded, transcribed, and subjected to thematic analysis. Results: Fifteen physicians from oncology, palliative care, cardiology, and respiratory specialties participated. Three major themes (impact, invisibility, and purpose) were generated. Findings mirrored those in high-income countries. Chronic breathlessness, as defined, was seen as prevalent, with a major impact on patients, families, and physicians. Nonpalliative care physicians described therapeutic helplessness with poor awareness and/or ability to manage breathlessness accompanied by active avoidance. This helplessness, a perceived lack of assessment tools and lack of access to palliative care contributed to the “invisibility” of chronic breathlessness. Most participants agreed with the name of chronic breathlessness syndrome. All agreed that systematic identification would foster education regarding assessment and management and support service development and research. Conclusions: Chronic breathlessness syndrome is recognized in South India but, as in higher-income countries, risks being invisible due to the lack of awareness of therapeutic interventions. A named and defined syndrome was seen as a way to improve identification and management.


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