Pulmonary function tests are a group of tests that measure how well the lungs take in and release air and how well they move gases such as oxygen from the atmosphere into the body's circulation.
How the Test is Performed
Spirometry measures airflow. By measuring how much air you exhale, and how quickly, spirometry can evaluate a broad range of lung diseases. In a spirometry test, while you are sitting, you breathe into a mouthpiece that is connected to an instrument called a spirometer. The spirometer records the amount and the rate of air that you breathe in and out over a period of time. When standing, some numbers might be slightly different. The most important issue is to perform the test always while at the same position. For some of the test measurements, you can breathe normally and quietly. Other tests require forced inhalation or exhalation after a deep breath. Sometimes you will be asked to inhale the substance or a medicine to see how it changes your test results. Lung volume measurement can be done in two ways:
To measure diffusion capacity, you breathe a harmless gas, called a tracer gas, for a very short time, often for only one breath. The concentration of the gas in the air you breathe out is measured. The difference in the amount of gas inhaled and exhaled measures how effectively gas travels from the lungs into the blood. This test allows the doctor to estimate how well the lungs move oxygen from the air into the bloodstream.
How to Prepare for the Test
Do not eat a heavy meal before the test. Do not smoke for 4 to 6 hours before the test. You will get specific instructions if you need to stop using bronchodilators or inhaler medications. You may have to breathe in medication before or during the test.
How the Test will Feel
Since the test involves some forced breathing and rapid breathing, you may have some temporary shortness of breath or light-headedness. You breathe through a tight-fitting mouthpiece and you will have nose clips. If you are claustrophobic, the clear box part of the test may feel uncomfortable.
Why the Test is Performed
Pulmonary function tests are done to:
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