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Differential diagnosis: Shortness of breath

Respiratory causes

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Other respiratory differentials = extrinsic allergic alveolitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonitis, bronchiectasis, LRTI, pleural effusion

Cardiac causes

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Other cardiac differentials = cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, acute valvular disease, pericardial effusion, pulmonary hypertension

Other causes

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Other differentials = DKA, overdoses, metabolic acidosis, sepsis/systemic inflammatory response syndrome, foreign body, anaphylaxis, anaemia

Test yourself

A patient presents with breathlessness and a fever. You hear coarse crepitations in the left lower zone of their chest. What are the different types of crepitations and what may they signify?

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Which initial investigations would you request?

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What are the most common organisms to cause community acquired pneumonia?

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Which antibiotics would you use?

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The chest radiograph showed left lower zone consolidation with a pleural effusion. You suspect empyema. How would you diagnose this?

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Try some OSCE stations

  1. Acute assessment – shortness of breath
  2. Acute assessment – shortness of breath II
  3. Asthma exacerbation
  4. HAP data interpretation
  5. Find lots more here!
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