Predicting outcome for ambulance patients with dyspnea: a prospective cohort study

Tim Alex Lindskou*, Kenneth Lübcke, Torben Anders Kløjgaard, Birgitte Schantz Laursen, Søren Mikkelsen, Ulla Møller Weinreich, Erika Frischknecht Christensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Objective: To validate the discrimination and classification accuracy of a novel acute dyspnea scale for identifying outcomes of out-of-hospital patients with acute dyspnea.

Methods: Prospective observational population-based study in the North Denmark Region. We included patients from July 1, 2017 to September 24, 2019 assessed as having acute dyspnea by the emergency dispatcher or by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel. Patients rated dyspnea using the 11-point acute dyspnea scale. The primary outcomes were hospitalization >2 days, ICU admission within 48 hours of ambulance run, and 30-day mortality. We used 5-fold cross-validation and area under receiver operating curves (AUC) to assess predictive properties of the acute dyspnea scale score alone and combined with vital data, age, and sex.

Results: We included 3144 EMS patients with reported dyspnea. Median acute dyspnea scale score was 7 (interquartile range 5 to 8). The outcomes were: 1966 (63%) hospitalized, 164 (5%) ICU stay, and 224 (9%) died within 30 days of calling the ambulance. The acute dyspnea scale score alone showed poor discrimination for hospitalization (AUC 0.56, 95% confidence intervals: 0.54-0.58), intensive care unit admission (0.58, 0.53-0.62), and mortality (0.46, 0.41-0.50). Vital signs (respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and heart rate) showed similarly poor discrimination for all outcomes. The combination of [vital signs + acute dyspnea scale score] showed better discrimination for hospitalization, ICU admission, and mortality (AUC 0.71-0.72). Patients not able to report an acute dyspnea scale score worse outcomes on all parameters.

Conclusion: The dyspnea scale showed poor accuracy and discrimination when predicting hospitalization, stay at intensive care unit, and mortality on its own. However, the dyspnea scale may be beneficial as performance measure and indicator of out-of-hospital care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American College of Emergency Physicians open
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)163-172
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


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