Journal of Chinese pediatrics vol:42 issue:4 pages:280-283
OBJECTIVE: Medically unexplained dyspnea is common in adult and accounts for 14% patients complaining of dyspnea. Its occurrence in children is seldom recognized. In the present paper, 34 children with medically unexplained dyspnea (age 10 to 18 years) seen in Peking Union Medical College Hospital from 1996 to 2002 are reported. METHODS: The diagnosis of medically unexplained dyspnea was clinical: it was based on the presence of dyspnea and other complaints which cannot be explained by an organic disease. The patients answered Nijmegen questionnaire and state and trait anxiety (STAI), and performed hyperventilation provocation test. Twenty sessions of breathing therapy were applied and 13 out of 34 children were followed up after the therapy. RESULTS: Among the children, 75% started to have symptoms at the age of 13 to 16 years, though the age of first episode could be as early as 8 years. In most of the cases, the course was chronic clinically. In addition to marked dyspnea, their clinical profile included symptoms of hyperventilation i.e. blurred vision, dizziness, tingling, stiff fingers or arm. The symptoms of anxiety were less frequent in children and accordingly the level of anxiety evaluated by means of STAI was lower in children compared to adult patients. The precipitating psychological factors appeared to be related to middle school competition. Pressure from exams, reprimand from stern and unsympathetic teachers coupled with high parental expectation could be emotionally damaging to psychologically susceptible children. Thirteen patients were followed up after 2-3 months of breathing therapy with emphasis on abdominal breathing and slowing down of expiration. After therapy, the sum score of the Nijmegen Questionnaire was markedly decreased. Dyspnea and symptoms of hyperventilation were improved. The level of anxiety was minimally modified. CONCLUSION: The cases illustrated the need for careful diagnostic evaluation and treatment because of the high rate of chronicity of the disorder.