Your Pulmonary Function Test: What to Expect

Young man testing breathing function by spirometry. Take care about health.Pulmonary function tests are conducted as a way to evaluate lung function. This test provides your doctor with valuable information regarding your lung health, including how much air your lungs can hold and the rates of airflow and gas exchange. The purpose of the pulmonary function test may be to diagnose a lung condition or to evaluate a condition that has already been diagnosed. These tests are often performed periodically for patients diagnosed with a chronic lung condition to monitor how well the lungs are functioning as a result of treatment. 

What a PFT Test Can Detect

A doctor may order pulmonary function testing for a number of conditions. Examples include asthma, allergies, COPD, shortness of breath, a chronic cough, and more. The test may observe conditions like respiratory infection, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and several others. 

How do I prepare for pulmonary function tests?

Some patients may need to alter certain activities before their pulmonary function test. The doctor may ask some patients to stop medications that open the airways for a short time before their appointment. Certain pain medications may need to be avoided, as well, if there is a chance they may interfere with test results. Before the pulmonary function test, the doctor will ask about all medications, prescription or over-the-counter, and supplements the patient is taking. 

Interestingly, what the patient eats before their pulmonary function test also matters. Eating a large meal could prevent the lungs from inflating fully during the test, so patients are advised to eat a small meal instead. Caffeine can also affect the pulmonary function test by causing the airways to be more open than they would normally. Patients should avoid caffeine as well as smoking for several hours before their appointment. 

What to Expect

If you have been scheduled for a pulmonary function test, know first and foremost that this is a noninvasive screening. The test is not painful. To evaluate lung function, patients are instructed to inhale and exhale into a small handheld tube. Air travels through the tube to a machine called a spirometer, which records how much and how quickly you can move air in and out of your lungs. The provider may ask the patient to breathe in as deeply as they can and blow air into the tube with maximum effort. They may have the patient also breathe normally for a few minutes. These variations provide the clearest measurements of lung volume and capacity. 

After the pulmonary function test, patients can resume normal activities right away. Dr. Bowen reviews the test results at the conclusion of the test and may discuss the best next steps to take, if necessary. 

If you have questions about your pulmonary function test or need to schedule this screening, contact us at  212-480-4062. We have convenient locations in NYC to serve you. 

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