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Pulmonary Fibrosis

How far along is her illness?

02/27/2009

Question:

Hello. My mom has been diagnosed with ipf for about two yrs or more. She is on oxygen 24/7. Over the weekend she wound up in the hospital and they found her oxygen levels below 70 after any walking movement. After she was there and resting the next day it went above 70 but barely. They took her to therapy and it dropped below 70 again. They have told her just to move slowly. My question is : do you believe this is a sign that she has reach the point where she may not have an extreme amount of time left?

Answer:

Patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis have a life expectancy of 3-5 years from the time of diagnosis on average. However, this is simply an average, and some patients may live longer or shorter depending on the speed of their disease and how far along they are when they are diagnosed. 

In general, once a patient requires oxygen, their disease is usually entering a more advanced stage. As the pulmonary fibrosis advances further, the oxygen level falls lower. A very low blood oxygen level despite breathing supplemental oxygen is often a signal that death may occur soon. However, it is important to be sure that there are no other causes for a low blood oxygen. 

Common diseases that can be present along with the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis are heart failure, pneumonia, and pulmonary embolism (blood clot). If any of these are present, they are often more easily treated than the pulmonary fibrosis and once treated, the oxygen level may improve. 

For more information:

Go to the Pulmonary Fibrosis health topic, where you can:

Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University