Temporal variations of dyspnea, fatigue, and lung function in chronic lung disease

Cynthia Anne McCarley, The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston


Background. Research investigating symptom management in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) largely has been undertaken assuming the homeostatic construct, without regard to potential roles of circadian rhythms. Temporal relations among dyspnea, fatigue, peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) and objective measures of activity/rest have not been reported in COPD. Objectives. The specific aims of this study were to (1) explore the 24-hour patterns of dyspnea, fatigue, and PEFR in subjects with COPD; (2) examine the relations among dyspnea, fatigue, and PEFR in COPD; and (3) examine the relations among objective measures of activity/rest and dyspnea, fatigue, and PEFR in COPD. Methods. The repeated-measures design involved 10 subjects with COPD who self-assessed dyspnea and fatigue by 100 mm visual analog scales, and PEFR by peak flow meter in their home 5 times a day for 8 days. Activity/rest was measured by wrist actigraphy. Single and population mean cosinor analyses and correlations were computed for dyspnea, fatigue, and PEFR; correlations were done among these variables and activity/rest. Results. Circadian rhythms were documented by single cosinor analysis in 40% of the subjects for dyspnea, 60% for fatigue, and 60% for PEFR. The population cosinor analysis of PEFR yielded a significant rhythm (p < .05). The 8-day 24-hour means of dyspnea and fatigue was moderately correlated (r = .48, p < .01). Dyspnea and PEFR, and fatigue and PEFR, were weakly correlated in a negative way (r = −.11, p < .05 and r = −.15, p < .01 respectively). Weak to moderate correlations (r = .12–.34, p < .05) were demonstrated between PEFR and mean activity level measured up to 4 hours before PEFR measurement. Conclusions. The findings suggest that (1) the dyspnea and fatigue experienced by COPD patients are moderately related, (2) there is a weak to modest positive relation between PEFR and activity levels, and (3) temporal variation in lung function may not affect the dyspnea and fatigue experienced by patients with COPD. Further research, examining the relations among dyspnea, fatigue, PEFR, and activity/rest is needed. Replication of this study is suggested with a larger sample size.

Subject Area

Nursing|Public health|Pathology

Recommended Citation

McCarley, Cynthia Anne, "Temporal variations of dyspnea, fatigue, and lung function in chronic lung disease" (2003). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3102428.