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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Emphysema life expectancy



what is the life expectancy of an emphysema patient and what are the end stages


Emphysema is also known as COPD and is a chronic condition with multiple factors that impact survival.   Life expectancy with COPD is dependent on several factors.

Lack of activity tolerance and increasing shortness of breath can be seen in the end stages.  Some people lose weight as just the work of breathing burns up all the calories they consume.  Most will require oxygen.  There may be more potential for developing acute bronchitis or pneumonia-this is why it is so very important that all patients with emphysema have a pneumonia vaccine and a yearly flu shot.

While a specific prognosis or expected survival cannot be made from your question, there are important questions to ask your physician or health care provider: 

The severity of COPD, presence of high carbon dioxide levels, severe activity limitations and weight loss are known to negatively impact survival. Oxygen therapy has been shown to improve survival if a patient has low oxygen levels. Pulmonary rehabilitation, while not shown to improve survival overall, does dramatically improve activity tolerance and therefore, quality of life.   

Have you ever been seen by a pulmonologist (a physician who specializes in pulmonary diseases)?  If not, this type of specialist can comprehensively evaluate your condition and ensure that you are being treated in the best manner.  With the information needs listed above, a pulmonologist could provide more specific answers to your questions. 

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Response by:

Gerene S Bauldoff, RN, PhD, FCCP, FAACVPR, FAAN Gerene S Bauldoff, RN, PhD, FCCP, FAACVPR, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University