There is considerable uncertainty about the reproducibility of the various instruments used to measure dyspnea, their ability to reflect changes in symptoms, whether they accurately reflect the patient's experience and if its evolution is similar between acute heart failure syndrome patients and nonacute heart failure syndrome patients. URGENT was a prospective multicenter trial designed to address these issues.
Patients were interviewed within 1 hour of first physician evaluation, in the emergency department or acute care setting, with dyspnea assessed by the patient using both a five-point Likert scale and a 10-point visual analog scale (VAS) in the sitting (60°) and then supine (20°) position if dyspnea had not been considered severe or very severe by the sitting versus decubitus dyspnea measurement.
Very good agreements were found between the five-point Likert and VAS at baseline (0.891, P < 0.0001) and between changes (from baseline to hour 6) in the five-point Likert and in VAS (0.800, P < 0.0001) in acute heart failure (AHF) patients. Lower agreements were found when changes from baseline to H6 measured by Likert or VAS were compared with the seven-point comparative Likert (0.512 and 0.500 respectively) in AHF patients. The worse the dyspnea at admission, the greater the amplitude of improvement in the first 6 hours; this relationship is stronger when dyspnea is measured with VAS (Spearman's rho coefficient = 0.672) than with the five-point Likert (0.272) (both P < 0.0001) in AHF patients. By the five-point Likert, only nine patients (3% (1% to 5%)) reported an improvement in their dyspnea, 177 (51% (46% to 57%)) had no change, and 159 (46% (41% to 52%)) reported worse dyspnea supine compared with sitting up in AHF patients. The PDA test with VAS was markedly different between AHF and non-AHF patients.
Both clinical tools five-point Likert and VAS showed very good agreement at baseline and between changes from baseline to tests performed 6 hours later in AHF patients. The PDA test with VAS was markedly different between AHF and non-AHF patients. Dyspnea is improved within 6 hours in more than three-quarters of the patients regardless of the tool used to measure the change in dyspnea. The greater the dyspnea at admission, the greater the amplitude of improvement in the first 6 hours.