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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

E. coli Infection in Lungs of COPD Patient

10/28/2010

Question:

Will my mother’s chronic illnesses keep antibiotics from healing the E. coli infection in her lungs? My mother was just told by her doctor they are bringing Hospice and Palliative care into her home.

She was also told she had E. coli in her lungs and it is spreading. She has COPD and heart problems. She is on supplemental oxygen and should be using her CPAP along with a slew of medications. She’s been in and out of the hospitals for the last six months.

I just want to know if her E. coli infection is causing everything else with her lungs to go downhill and that is why they think she needs Hospice now?

Answer:

It is difficult to address the specifics regarding your mother's situation, without the benefit of having full knowledge of her medical conditions and course. Even with that direct knowledge, it is sometimes difficult to identify one specific single factor that has led to the deterioration of someone's overall health. 

It is not uncommon that a complicated combination of underlying medical conditions such as your mother's COPD and heart disease, repeated and ongoing infections such as the E. coli and overall weakness resulting from and contributing to the need for repeated hospitalizations could result in her health deteriorating to the point that her physicians to not expect her to be able to fully recover. In this case, the E coli may be only one of many contributing factors. 

I would encourage you and your mother (if she is able, and with her permission) to make an appointment to meet with your mother's physician to discuss both of your concerns as well as her wishes regarding her ongoing care, including her comfort in her living situation, her wishes regarding return to the hospital, etc. 

Hopefully, your conversation will result in everyone having a better understanding of your mother's wishes, which will likely be a relief for her, as well as providing you with an understanding of how her physicians feel her condition is likely to progress over time. In turn, hospice and palliative care services can provide both your mother and you with support, assure that her symptoms are attended to, and help you anticipate and address her needs as time progresses.

For more information:

Go to the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Amy L Pope-Harman, MD Amy L Pope-Harman, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University