Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a disease affecting the respiratory system. It is associated with the thickening and stiffening of lung tissue, leaving scar tissue in the process. There are many factors that can predict survival in PF. For instance, clubbing (deformity of the fingers or toes) and body mass index (BMI) have been shown to be associated with the prognosis of PF.
Average prognosis of PF
Pulmonary fibrosis is an aggressive disease that often results in poor prognosis. According to a research study, the average survival for PF patients ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 years from the time of diagnosis – although some patients live much longer than that. The most common cause of death among PF patients is respiratory failure.
There are no definitive prediction models that can be used in clinical practice, but there are certain characteristics, like physical features, that healthcare professionals look for to help give an estimated prognosis.
Clubbing can indicate the presence of an underlying disease. A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine demonstrated that clubbing is significantly associated with reduced survival in PF after adjustment for age and smoking status. This association, however, has not been specifically studied in other groups of patients.
Body mass index was also shown to be associated with survival, with patients with a higher BMI surviving longer, on average. In a study published in the medical journal Chest, the median survival was 3.6 years for PF patients who had a BMI lower than 25; 3.8 years for patients who had a BMI between 25-30; and 5.8 years for those with a BMI greater than 30.
The reason why a higher BMI seems to have a protective effect in PF patients is not clear, but as with other chronic respiratory diseases, it could be because a lower BMI may be a marker of malnutrition or higher energy use at rest and during physical activity.
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