Spirometry Testing and Pulmonary Diagnostics

Hillcroft Physician provider performing a pulmonary exam

Pulmonary Diagnostics Overview

Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are non-painful examinations that indicate how well the patient’s lungs function. PFTs measure lung volume, the capacity of air, rates of flow, and gas exchange. This information is essential for doctors to diagnose lung problems and determine the proper course of treatment.

Two main disorders can hurt lung functioning and must be treated:

  • Obstructive: When the air has trouble flowing out of the lungs due to resistance in the airway, causing a decreased flow of air.
  • Restrictive: This is a condition when lung tissue and/or chest muscles can’t expand to accomodate the needed air for a person’s body. This lower lung volume can cause major problems with proper body functioning.

PFTs are often used to check lung function before planned surgery or other procedures in patients who have lung or heart problems, are smokers or are experiencing similar health conditions. Another use of PFTs is to assess treatment for asthma, emphysema, and other chronic lung problems.

Spirometry Testing

A spirometer is a device with a mouthpiece that measures air intake when breathed into as a preliminary test to screen the lung’s function. This screening test can help to determine further advanced testing.

Hillcroft Physician provider performing a pulmonary exam

Health Tips & Info

Are pulmonary function tests painful?
No, they involve a patient breathing and the doctor assessing the resulting air volume for efficiency. The tests are repeated several times to ensure accuracy.
What is involved in a pulmonary function test?
Doctors will request you empty your lungs by gently breathing out as much air as you can. The next step is to breathe in a quick and deep breath, hold your breath for 10 seconds, and then breathe out. Patients will repeat the test several times; the testing process usually takes about 30 minutes.
Why do doctors order a pulmonary function test?
PFTs are done to diagnose specific types of lung disease suspected by the doctor to diagnose the source of pain or shortness of breath including, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. The tests will also measure whether exposure to chemicals is affecting lung function.