Understanding Your Spirometry Test

by | Jul 23, 2014 | COPD, Lung Disease, Treatments

Shortness of breath? Ongoing cough? Intense wheezing? Does any of this sound familiar? If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, then chances are that you may be suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or another form of lung disease. Of course, the best way to find out if you have a form of lung disease is with a pulmonary function test, such as a spirometry test.

What is a Spirometry Test?

A pulmonary function test, such as the spirometry test, is a common office test that is used to assess how well your lungs are working by measuring how much air you inhale and exhale, and how quickly you exhale. The spirometry is used to diagnose asthma, COPD and other diseases that affect breathing.

What to Expect for Your Spirometry Test?

According to the National Library of Health, in a spirometry test, while 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. The most important issue is to perform the test always while in the same position.

Before you do a spirometry test, a nurse, a technician or your doctor will give you specific instructions. Listen carefully and ask questions if something is not clear. Doing the test correctly is necessary for accurate and meaningful results.

For some of the test measurements, you can breathe normally. 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. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes to perform.

What Do the Results Mean?

The spirometry test will provide you with a number of values that your doctor will explain. These values are based upon your age, height, ethnicity and gender. All results are displayed as a percentage. Any value that is listed under 80 percent is considered abnormal and may indicate signs of a lung disease.

In a post from the Mayo Clinic, key measurements from a spirometry test will include:

  • Forced vital capacity (FVC). This is the largest amount of air that you can forcefully exhale after breathing in as deeply as you can. A lower than normal FVC reading indicates restricted breathing.
  • Forced expiratory volume (FEV-1). This is how much air you can force from your lungs in one second. This reading helps your doctor assess the severity of your breathing problems. Lower FEV-1 readings indicate more significant obstruction.

Some lung diseases (such as emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis and infections) can make the lungs contain too much air and take longer to empty. This test will help determine if you are suffering from any of these conditions.

Be sure to ask doctor if you have any questions about taking a spirometry test. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD or another lung disease and want to learn more about treatment options, contact us or call 888-745-6697.

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