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Lung diseases

Mother with ALS

10/30/2003

Question:

My mother was diagnosed with ALS in July. She is 67 years old, 63" in height and weighs 160 lbs. She spends the majority of her time in her wheelchair or in bed, but can walk slowly and with difficulty if she uses a walker. She had a breathing test done a few days ago where she registered 1 2/5 out of 5L. We asked the doctor what this meant, but he just gave us the runaround. I am worried that she is close to being in respiratory distress. Can you give me some idea what these numbers mean and if I should be concerned? Any information will be more than I have now and greatly appreciated!

Answer:

ALS is often referred to as Lou Gehrig`s disease. It affects the muscles as you are probably aware by now including the muscles of respiration. This will be noted by breathing difficulties or dyspnea. Breathing tests if done will show a reduction in lung volumes as the muscles are too weak to contract to full capability. The numbers you report if correct show a marked decrement. Depending on patient preference there are aids available to assist in ventilation. You should request a consultation with a pulmonary subspecialist to go over these options. NetWellness offers a referrals/directories page, which might help you to find the type of specialist that you seek. To access it, follow the `Click here for a referral` link at the bottom of this screen.

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Response by:

Mitchell C Rashkin, MD Mitchell C Rashkin, MD
Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati