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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Final stage COPD

05/11/2009

Question:

My father is a 70 year old with copd and heart disease. he is on oxygen 24/7 and has been for almost 2 years. The heart problems need surgery for a 100% blockage and another 50% blockage. He cannot have the surgery. He has been in and out of the hospital for 2 years with various lung infections, high carbon dioxide levels, and irregular heart problems. He fights fluid problems constantly and even when the fluid leaves the feet and legs, his stomach never goes down. He is currently so weak that he cannot walk at all and shortness of breath even while talking at time. He still reponds to antibiotics and steroids with each hospital stay. He has been in and out of rehab several time to try to get strength back before trying to return home, but ends up falling or developing another infection and ending up back in the hospital. The family has not been able to get many answers as to the future. His doctor won`t give up, but his quality of life has declined to almost nothing. How long can a person live like this? What usually happens next? Is the weakness and inability to walk a result of copd? At what point should we forget the rehab and just allow him to come home. Thank You

Answer:

Without knowing more specifics about your father's lung function and heart problems it is difficult for us to tell you how much longer he can go on like this. The weakness and inability to walk is likely related to the impaired lung function, deconditioning, and muscle wasting associated with COPD.

If his quality of life is as poor as you suggest, your father, his doctor, and the family should consider having a frank discussion about the goals of treatment. Should treatment focus primarily on prolonging life or on alleviation of symptoms? If the latter is more appropriate, then hospice may be an option.

For more information:

Go to the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Mahasti   Rittinger, RRT Mahasti Rittinger, RRT
Clinical Program Manager of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University