The aim of this systematic review was to identify and appraise studies which tracked changes in the sensation of breathlessness, as described in terms of intensity, unpleasantness, its effect on impairment levels or quality of life, over two or more years in people with COPD. Four major databases were searched. Twelve studies were included for full analysis. These studies were a mix of observational and experimental in their design, and were found to have high methodological quality. Subjects in the studies were, overall, severely impaired at the start of the two year period, according to level of airflow restriction. Impairment levels did not change dramatically over the two year period (mean decrease of 2%). Thirteen outcome measures were identified within the studies. Modest improvements over the two year period were noted using tools which measure breathlessness intensity and self-reported impairment levels when forms of management were implemented. No clear conclusions could be drawn about changes in quality of life over two years for people with COPD. No studies have reported changes in the quality of the sensation of breathlessness over a minimum two-year period. There is a distinct lack of longitudinal studies tracking changes in the qualitative sensations of breathlessness.




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