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Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary Fibrosis



My brother is 65 and has pulmonary fibrosis. He was told today that his lungs are at 50% capacity. His oxygen level is 88. Our mother died of pulmonary fibrosis 20 years ago so I know how hard it is to watch a loved one suffer with it. What do you think the prognosis is with 50% capacity? I know you can`t tell me for sure, just asking for an opinion. Thanks


When determining the severity of pulmonary fibrosis, physicians use pulmonary function tests which can generate a lot of different numbers. It is not clear which of these numbers is being used in this case, but it may be the Forced Vital Capacity, Total Lung Capacity, or perhaps Diffusing Capacity. 

If it is the Forced Vital Capacity, then a value of 50% of predicted would indicate advanced pulmonary fibrosis. If it is the Diffusing Capacity, then a value of 50% would not be quite as bad and could indicate a more intermediate stage of the disease. 

There are different ways of measuring oxygen also. If the oxygen level of 88 is the pO2 (in other words a pO2 of 88 mm Hg oxygen), then that is relatively normal. If the oxygen level of 88 is the oxygen saturation (in other words, an oxygen saturation of 88%), then that would indicate a low amount of oxygen in the blood, and the use of supplemental oxygen would be indicated. 

For both inherited idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and non-inherited idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the average survival from the time of diagnosis is 3-5 years but this is an average and each individual patient is very different. There is no cure for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; however, lung transplant is a possibility in some patients depending on what other medical problems they have. Some transplant centers will consider patients for transplant even at age 65 or even older.

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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