The official blog of the Lung Institute.

Nitrogen Lung Washout

11 Sep 2015
| Under COPD, Lung Disease | Posted by | 3 Comments
Nitrogen Lung Washout

Nitrogen Lung Washout

When pulmonologists believe someone has lung disease, there are several types of breathing tests done to determine the patient’s diagnosis. These tests will help pulmonologists figure out if it’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumoconiosis, pulmonary fibrosis, or some other condition. One of the most common tests conducted is the nitrogen lung washout.

What is a Nitrogen Lung Washout?

A nitrogen lung washout is a test to determine the state of your lung capacity and airflow. Specifically, it tests the amount of unused air normally in your lungs, known as functional residual capacity. Pulmonologists look for the amount of dead space – the volume of air that doesn’t take part the gas exchange – due to nonfunctioning capillaries in the small air sacks of the lungs. The gas exchange is the process of converting oxygen from your lungs, delivering it to your bloodstream, and extracting carbon dioxide from your bloodstream to your lungs so it can be exhaled. A large amount of dead space in the lungs results in lower lung function, which makes it harder to breathe.

Test Procedure

During the test, the person breathes into a machine that fills the lungs with pure oxygen, then exhales for as long as possible. The amount of nitrogen exhaled is measured. The air in the Earth’s atmosphere is 78 percent nitrogen. Since nitrogen will not be part of the air breathed in, it will build up and sit in the lungs until exhaled. So if the air exhaled consists of more than 78 percent nitrogen, the difference determines how much nitrogen remains in the lungs.

The pulmonologist may ask the patient to continue to breathe pure oxygen in a normal breathing pattern for a few minutes after the test. This will measure how long it takes to breathe out the oxygen in your lungs. The test normally takes about seven minutes to complete if the patient is healthy, but it takes closer to 15 minutes for someone suffering from lung disease.

The nitrogen washout test is considered a safe test, with minor dizziness or shortness of breath being the only side effects. Other lung volume tests include the helium dilution test and the body box test.

In a helium dilution test, the patient breathes a mixture of helium and oxygen. In a body box test, the patient sits in an enclosed chamber and performs some small panted breaths. Although the body box test is the most accurate test, it is the most difficult to perform because it requires specially-trained technicians to operate the equipment.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a lung disease and interested in learning about stem cell therapy treatment options, please contact us at the Lung Institute to learn more or call (800) 729-3065.


  1. Jim dixon

    2 years ago

    Do you have the ability to do your own PFT and blood work if a perspective client can not supply from the Canadian health system?

  2. Matt Reinstetle

    2 years ago

    Hello David, currently, stem cell therapy for pulmonary conditions is not covered by insurance. We hope to see that change in the next few years as insurance companies begin to see the long-term financial benefit for themselves. If you want to find out more, call us at (855) 313-1149. -Matt

  3. David Holland

    2 years ago

    Does insurance cover the cost of stem cell treatment. Is there any research places that need volunteers.

Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

* All treatments performed at Lung Institute utilize autologous stem cells, meaning those derived from a patient's own body. No fetal or embryonic stem cells are utilized in Lung Institute's procedures. Lung Institute aims to improve patients' quality of life and help them breathe easier through the use of autologous stem cell therapy. To learn more about how stem cells work for lung disease, click here.

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

Under current FDA guidelines and regulations 1271.10 and 1271.15, the Lung Institute complies with all necessary requirements for operation. The Lung Institute is firmly in accordance with the conditions set by the FDA for exemption status and conducts itself in full accordance with current guidelines. Any individual who accesses Lung Institute's website for information is encouraged to speak with his or her primary physician for treatment suggestions and conclusive evidence. All information on this site should be used for educational and informational use only.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and stem cell procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.