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Lung diseases

Pneumonia Recovery

06/15/2010

Question:

My husband is 67. He had the bottom lobe of his right lung removed in 2008 due to lung cancer, but is now cancer-free. He needed no radiation or chemotherapy. He developed pneumonia in his right lung about a month ago and has received several rounds of different antibiotics, including sulfa drugs (which he had to stop due to extreme nausea) plus an antibiotic shot, uses Advair and a bronchodilator spray. He has not been hospitalized. He seems to be recovering now, and has coughed up a lot of mucus and is still coughing it up, just not as often, but occasionally has a low grade fever. He is very weak, has no appetite, and shortness of breath even when walking. His oxygen saturation was fine when the doctor checked it last week. The CT scan only showed pneumonia in the right lung. He also has moderate COPD with emphysema. What can he do to speed up his recovery and help his breathing? Will any kind of exercise help, even though he`s still very short of breath.

Answer:

It can take weeks to months for people to recover from pneumonia. This can take even longer in patients with chronic lung disease. Similarly, it can take weeks to months for one’s chest X-ray to go back to normal. However, we would expect a patient to improve over time even if not completely. The chest xray/CT may also not be back to normal but should be improving after one month of therapy.

If this is not the case, your doctor may be concerned about making sure that what is seen is truly pneumonia and not something else. Patients recovering from pneumonia should stop smoking. Increasing one’s exercise will likely also improve recovery time, but you should check with his doctor to make sure there are not other medical conditions, which would make such exercise unsafe.

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Response by:

James M O'Brien, Jr, MD James M O'Brien, Jr, MD
Former Associate Professor
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University