Shortness of breath can be a more reliable indicator of the underlying cardiac disease following the finding that such patients have a higher risk of dying from heart disease than patients without cardiac pain or other symptoms. The general notion that chest pain alone is an indicator of cardiac disease has been disapproved by the finding.
A retrospective evaluation of the medical records of patients who were referred for cardiac stress was carried out as a part of the study which also included a follow up. It was found that patients with shortness of breath were significantly more likely to experience death from cardiac cause than their counterparts. Surprisingly, there was no episode of chest pain in the high-risk group but only shortage of breath.
Patients often do not interpret shortness of breath as a serious symptom. However in patients who carry a high cardiac risk, it may be the only system particularly if there is no lung disease.
From the analysis of the study reports, it became evident that patients without known coronary artery disease who had shortness of breath were four times more likely to suffer death from a cardiac cause than asymptomatic patients and twice as likely as patients who had chest pain that is considered to be typical cardiac pain.
Coronary artery disease is characterized by deposition of plague in the arteries supplying the heart and patients with this disease either die suddenly without prior symptoms or have a heart attack as the first manifestation of the disease.
It remains unclear why patients with shortness of breath without chest pain were more likely to die. Ischaemia or lack of blood supply may be one of the possible reasons. Another speculation is that certain inflammatory proteins associated with the heart disease may be responsible for the breathing symptom.
The results of the present study highlight the need for identification of symptoms other than chest pain that could prove to be valuable in predicting coronary artery disease. Functional testing such as myocardial perfusion test should be taken up in such patients.