Labored breathing

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Labored respiration or labored breathing is an abnormal respiration characterized by evidence of increased effort to breathe, including the use of accessory muscles of respiration, stridor, grunting, or nasal flaring.[1]


Labored breathing is distinguished from shortness of breath or dyspnea, which is the sensation of respiratory distress rather than a physical presentation.

Still, many[2] simply define dyspnea as difficulty in breathing without further specification, which may confuse it with e.g. labored breathing or tachypnea (rapid breathing).[3] Labored breathing has occasionally been included in the definition of dyspnea as well.[4] However, in the standard definition, these related signs may be present at the same time, but don't necessarily have to be. For instance, in respiratory arrest by a primary failure in respiratory muscles the patient, if conscious, may experience dyspnea, yet without having any labored breathing or tachypnea. The other way around, labored breathing or tachypnea can voluntarily be performed even when there is no dyspnea.


Intercostal recessions on a newborn baby, a common sign of respiratory distress.[5]

Presentations of labored respiration include:


Causes of labored breathing include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ TheFreeDictionary > labored breathing Retrieved on Dec 12, 2009
  2. ^ TheFreeDictionary, retrieved on Dec 12, 2009. Citing:
    • The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009.
    • Ologies & -Isms. The Gale Group 2008
  3. ^ West JB (2008). Pulmonary pathophysiology: the essentials (7 ed.). Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 45. 
  4. ^ Definition of Dyspnea MedicineNet. Last Editorial Review: 11/1/1998]
  5. ^ a b Levene, Malcolm I.; David Ian Tudehope; Michael John Thearle (2000). Essentials of neonatal medicine. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 28. ISBN 0-632-05163-9. 
  6. ^ UpToDate >Patient information: Croup in infants and children Charles R Woods, MD, MS. Last literature review version 17.3: September 2009
  7. ^ a b Medilexicon Medical Dictionary - 'Labored Respiration' Retrieved on Dec 12, 2009