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Pulmonary Fibrosis

Life Expectancy

07/19/2010

Question:

My uncle has been placed in a home hospice program due to the severity of PF. He is currently on oxygen (6 liters setting). He also takes prednisone, some vitamins,a fluid pill and a heart med. He is 77 years. He is easily fatigued, especially when moving about the house or even dressing. He was advised that he had approximately 6 - 8 months of life left. What do we need to look for and/or be aware of concerning his condition both physically and mentally in the comming weeks? Is it possible with good care that his life to be extended?

Answer:

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a fatal disease with an average life expectancy of 3-5 years after diagnosis. This is an average, however, and many patients will live either longer or shorter depending on their individual circumstances. Hospice is usually started when the physician believes that a patient has less then 6 months of life.

It is not possible to predict the exact number of months (or years) that a patient will live. However, as IPF enters advanced stages, patients become tired easily and often sleep more. It becomes hard to move about the house and many patients live on one floor so that they do not need to go up and down stairs. As shortness of breath and oxygen levels worsen, patients often need higher amounts of supplemental oxygen to control shortness of breath. In addition to shortness of breath, patients can have a cough. If severe shortness of breath or cough develops, then physicians often add opioid medications such as morphine to help with the symptoms; hospice is usually well-equipped to administer these types of medications.

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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