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Emphysema: Stages and Prognosis

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Emphysema Life Expectancy and Emphysema Statistics

An emphysema prognosis is impossible to determine in any individual person. Although emphysema staging can help identify the severity of emphysema, it can't predict the future.

There have been no large studies to determine emphysema's effect on life expectancy. The largest and best studies have only included a few hundred people. Emphysema staging is helpful, but emphysema still varies widely between two people at the same stage.

In other words, available emphysema statistics aren't reliable for individual people seeking their emphysema life expectancy.

That said, the higher a person's emphysema staging is, the lower their long-term life expectancy. The GOLD and BODE emphysema staging systems provide slightly different information, summarized as follows:

  • More than 80% of people with mild emphysema are alive after four years.
  • 60% to 70% of people with moderate emphysema are alive after four years.
  • Among people with severe emphysema (FEV1< 35% normal), about 50% are alive after four years.
  • People with the worst possible emphysema symptoms (such as inability to walk through the house and severe weight loss) have the shortest emphysema life expectancy.

Remember that emphysema life expectancy varies widely, even between people with the same pulmonary function tests and BODE index scores. Even with the most severe emphysema, the odds of surviving one year are higher than 90%. Your primary doctor or pulmonologist can provide more detailed information.

By far, the most important determinant of emphysema prognosis and emphysema life expectancy is whether someone continues smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most important treatment to improve emphysema life expectancy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on August 01, 2014
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