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The nurse informed me that my mother has only 3 alveoli functioning in her lungs. What does that mean. This is so confusing.


The alveolus is an air sac.  The alveoli is the plural of the single alveolus.  Alveoli are the unit in the lung where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. To picture alveoli, think of a bunch of grapes.  There are approximately 300 million alveoli in normal adult lungs.  I believe that the nurse may have made an off-the-cuff remark in reference to your mother’s severe lung disease.  In emphysema, the walls of the alveoli are destroyed, thereby reducing the ability to move air out of the lungs and the ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.  Without knowing your mother’s diagnosis, no other information can be provided. 

NetWellness receives many questions regarding prognosis and life expectancy for persons with COPD and emphysema. Although it is not possible to provide specific predictions in a forum such as this, you may find the following guidelines helpful in knowing what to expect.

Please accept our best wishes.

Emphysema: Stages and Life Expectancy

For more information:

Go to the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) health topic.