Serial killers: Shortness of breath

In this episode, learn the 5 emergent conditions that will kill patients experiencing shortness of breath, and how to use ETCO2 to develop a differential


How to get to the final diagnosis is often a process that all levels of emergency providers struggle with. To go from undifferentiated abdominal pain with unstable vitals, to then filter to an organized differential is often quite challenging.

As we discussed in our initial Serial Killers series episode on chest pain, we’re not going to spend time with non-emergent/chronic diagnoses, just the ones that are deadly when missed. That’s where we, as emergency providers, must begin. Today we’re going to focus on the dyspneic patient.

When people call with trouble breathing – what things can kill them emergently?

  1. COPD/asthma
  2. SCAPE
  3. Pneumonia
  4. Infarction (Pulmonary vs. ACS/MI)
  5. Non-pulmonary acidoses

In this episode, we will examine where to start with patients experiencing shortness of breath, and how to use your ETCO2 to develop a differential.

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