Primary hyperventilation is defined as a state of alveolar ventilation in excess of metabolic requirements, leading to decreased arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide. The primary aim of this study was to characterise patients diagnosed with primary hyperventilation in the ED.
Our retrospective cohort study comprised adult (≥16 years) patients admitted to our ED between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2012 with the primary diagnosis of primary (=psychogenic) hyperventilation.
A total of 616 patients were eligible for study. Participants were predominantely female (341 [55.4%] female versus 275 [44.6%] male respectively, p <0.01). The mean age was 36.5 years (SD 15.52, range 16-85). Patients in their twenties were the most common age group (181, 29.4%), followed by patients in their thirties (121, 19.6%). Most patients presented at out-of-office hours (331 [53.7%]. The most common symptom was fear (586, 95.1%), followed by paraesthesia (379, 61.5%) and dizziness (306, 49.7%). Almost a third (187, 30.4%) of our patients had previously experienced an episode of hyperventilation and half (311, 50.5%) of patients had a psychiatric co-morbidity.
Hyperventilation is a diagnostic chimera with a wide spectrum of symptoms. Patients predominantly are of young age, female sex and often have psychiatric comorbidities. The severity of symptoms accompanied with primary hyperventilation most often needs further work-up to rule out other diagnosis in a mostly young population. In the future, further prospective multicentre studies are needed to evaluate and establish clear diagnostic criteria for primary hyperventilation and possible screening instruments.