Doctors use the term end-stage to describe the most advanced stage of a particular disease. The term end-stage does not have a specific meaning. But it usually means that further medical treatment short of transplanting a new organ is unlikely to help.
Patients with end-stage emphysema usually have severe shortness of breath, even at rest. They usually require oxygen. At times, advanced lung disease causes problems with the heart. It can also cause symptoms of confusion, lethargy and drowsiness.
Predicting how long a person will live is difficult in most chronic diseases, including emphysema. Two patients who appear to have the exact same stage of a disease may go on to have very different life spans.
Still, a few generalizations can be made about people with emphysema:
- Those with mild emphysema appear to have a virtually normal life expectancy.
- Those with severe emphysema with less than 30% of functioning lung tissue have an average life expectancy as low as 3 years.
- Those with below-normal blood oxygen levels appear to live longer if they receive oxygen treatment around the clock. Typically this oxygen comes through a plastic tube worn under the nose.
As mentioned above, there are limited treatment options for patients with advanced emphysema. A type of surgery called volume reduction may help some individuals. Younger patients may be candidates for a lung transplant.