Hyperventilation Syndrome

Hyperventilation Syndrome is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Hyperventilation syndrome describes a constellation of symptoms:
    • Most commonly: Dyspnea, chest pain, lightheadedness, and paresthesias
  • Produced by a nonphysiologic increase in minute ventilation:
    • Minute ventilation may be increased by increasing respiratory rate or tidal volume (sighs).
  • Pathologic or physiologic causes of hyperventilation must be excluded before the diagnosis of hyperventilation syndrome can be assigned.
  • Prevalence:
    • 10–15% in the general population
    • More common in women (may be related to progesterone)


  • Etiology of symptoms is unclear:
    • Usually a response to psychological stressors
  • Controversy exists regarding underlying disorders that may contribute to hyperventilation:
    • Hypocapnia
    • Hypophosphatemia
    • Hypocalcemia

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