Clinical investigations from the RACP

Investigating the child with dyspnoea

Dominic A Fitzgerald



Dyspnoea refers to the feeling of difficult or laboured breathing, which an older child may describe as being ‘short of breath’.

Key Points

  • Age and clinical features influence investigation and diagnosis in the child with dyspnoea.
  • The chest x-ray is the most common investigation in the child with dyspnoea.
  • Other useful initial investigations, where appropriate, include a lateral airways x-ray, a barium swallow and meal, pulmonary function tests and laboratory testing.
  • In complex presentations, more sophisticated imaging, endoscopy and polysomnography may be useful.