Agonal breaths sometimes referred to as agonal respiration or agonal breathing, are a type of abnormal breathing pattern that can indicate an impending death. They are characterized by slow, shallow, and labored breaths that often have a deep, guttural sound. Agonal breaths are often seen in patients who are in cardiac arrest, but they may also occur in those with other conditions, such as advanced lung disease.
Agonal breaths usually indicate that the patient is in a critical state and may not survive. They can occur at any point during the dying process but are most commonly seen in the last few minutes of life. Agonal breaths are often a sign of impending death and may be accompanied by other indicators such as a decrease in heart rate, changes in skin color, and a decrease in the level of consciousness. Agonal breaths are not a sign of a treatable condition and should not be confused with normal breathing patterns.
Treatment for agonal breaths is limited to providing comfort to the patient and supporting their family. Additionally, it is important to document the event and time of the agonal breaths for medical records.