Posted on June 04th, 2020
For the millions of Americans living with emphysema, each shortened breath, cough, and wheeze is a reminder of this devastating lung disease. The lifetime cost of emphysema is substantial and many patients are left in serious financial difficulty and, more worrying still, facing a reduced quality of life.
Emphysema involves the loss of elasticity and enlargement of the air sacs of the lungs. This can make breathing difficult and ultimately decrease the amount of oxygen you get into your bloodstream. The cause of emphysema - the lung disorder that can leave people breathless, fatigued, and struggling for each breath, is usually long-term exposure to airborne irritants like asbestos that damage the lungs and the airways.
The disease impacts not only patients but caregivers as well. Pulmonary rehabilitation and long-term oxygen therapy are widely accepted as therapies, and may positively impact the long-term management of emphysema patients, but they can have lasting negative economic consequences.
In emphysema, the damage to the lung tissue is irreversible, however, the following treatments are available to manage symptoms and prevent further damage:
Some patients with emphysema may qualify for surgery to reduce lung volume. Lung volume reduction surgery is a costly procedure that has been shown to help improve breathing ability, lung capacity, and overall quality of life. Also, for the severely ill patients with emphysema, a lung transplant is an effective treatment. The cost of lung transplant is too much of a burden for one to handle, because there are several different types of medical and non-medical costs associated with the transplant process including pre-transplant evaluation and testing, surgery, follow-up care and rehabilitation, lodging and travel expenses if you must relocate near the transplant center, childcare, and lost wages.
Surgical treatments - Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS) - Estimated average total cost - $97,760
Lung transplant - The typical cost of a lung transplant and follow-up care is $500,000-$800,000, depending on whether the procedure involves one or both lungs. Patients must purchase a home spirometer to monitor your lung function pre- and post-transplant and the average price of a good spirometer is about $2000.
The financial burden associated with healthcare costs is relatively high for U.S. patients with emphysema. A survey published in the peer-reviewed BMC Public Health Journal, reveals that:
Some emphysema patients are unaware of their higher risk of lung cancer. Inhaled asbestos fibers significantly damage the lungs and the damage gets progressively worse with time.
The researchers found that emphysema and lung cancer have common origins in inflammation and also may share some of the same genetics and environmental risk factors since not everyone who develops lung cancer smokes.
Patients with emphysema have a lung cancer incidence that's four times higher than for the general population.
Thus, early detection of lung cancer-related symptoms can be essential for survival in this group, but patients often confuse potential cancer signs with emphysema symptoms.
In addition to the considerable morbidity and mortality associated with lung cancer, this disease incurs significant healthcare costs, which is why most patients with emphysema should be motivated to seek help when symptom changes occur.