Prognosis and Life Expectancy With Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
Based on clinical studies, a person's average life expectancy with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is thought to range between two and four years after diagnosis. However, researchers have shown that certain factors (such as being female and under age 50) may lead to a longer survival rate. It is important to keep in mind, however, that a prognosis for life expectancy with IPF is only a prediction.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive disease, meaning that it does not improve on its own or with treatment. However, how it progresses among individuals is quite varied. In some people, the lung tissue quickly becomes thick and stiff, while in others, the process is much slower. In others, the condition stays the same for years.
For someone who has been told that they have IPF, they are understandably concerned about their own prognosis, including their life expectancy. When healthcare providers discuss a person's prognosis (including their life expectancy), they carefully consider all of the factors that could affect that person's disease and treatment, and then try to predict what might happen. The healthcare provider will base the prognosis on information that researchers have collected over many years about hundreds (or even thousands) of people who are in a similar situation. When possible, the healthcare provider will use statistics based on groups of people whose situations are most similar to that of an individual patient.
For example, researchers have shown that certain factors may lead to a longer survival rate among people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Some of these factors that can lengthen the life expectancy in people with IPF include:
- A younger age (less than 50 years old)
- Symptoms that began less than one year before diagnosis (see Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Symptoms)
- Minimal shortness of breath at diagnosis
- Less lung damage based on the high-resolution CT (HRCT) at the time of diagnosis
- A positive response to treatment after three to six months (see Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatment)
- A history of "current" cigarette smoking at the time of diagnosis (this finding remains unexplained).
Because these factors directly affect life expectancy, a person's healthcare provider is the best person to discuss the expected results for their particular situation. However, it is important to keep in mind that a prognosis is only a prediction; the healthcare provider cannot be absolutely certain about the outcome for a particular patient.