Pulmonary Function Test


A Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) is a group of tests that measure how well your lungs work. These tests are non-invasive and are commonly used to diagnose and monitor respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases. PFTs can also be used to assess the effectiveness of treatment and determine the severity of lung function impairment.

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Why is Pulmonary Function Test Used?

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) are used for several purposes related to assessing and monitoring lung function. These tests provide valuable information that helps healthcare professionals in the diagnosis, evaluation, and management of various respiratory conditions. Here are some common reasons why PFTs are used:

Diagnosis of Respiratory Conditions

PFTs are often employed to diagnose respiratory disorders such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease, bronchiectasis, and restrictive lung diseases.

Monitoring Disease Progression

For individuals with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma or COPD, regular PFTs can be used to monitor changes in lung function over time. This information is crucial for adjusting treatment plans and assessing the effectiveness of interventions.

Occupational Health Monitoring

PFTs may be used in occupational health settings to assess lung function in individuals who may be exposed to respiratory hazards in their workplace, such as dust, chemicals, or fumes. Monitoring lung function can help identify occupational lung diseases early on.

Assessment of Lung Function

PFTs provide quantitative measurements of lung volumes, capacities, and airflow rates. These measurements help healthcare professionals assess how well the lungs are functioning and identify any abnormalities in respiratory mechanics.

Evaluation of Treatment Response

PFTs can help healthcare providers determine how well a patient is responding to a particular treatment regimen. Changes in lung function parameters over time can guide adjustments to medications or other therapeutic interventions.

Preoperative Assessment Before Surgeries

Before certain surgeries, especially those involving the chest or respiratory system, PFTs may be performed to assess a patient’s lung function and overall respiratory health. This information helps surgeons and anesthesiologists plan for surgery and anesthesia administration.

Pulmonary Function Tests for Patients

Spirometry: Spirometry involves having you take a fast deep inhalation in, then immediately blasting air out to measure total volume as well as the maximum you can exhale at certain time points. Sometimes this measurement is made before and after using a bronchodilator medication to dilate your airways.

Diffusion Capacity: Diffusion studies measure how well oxygen moves from your lungs into your blood by having you take a deep breath of a gas mixture and holding it for a few seconds. The diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide (DLCO), also referred to as the Transfer factor of the lung for carbon monoxide (TLCO), is used to evaluate the transfer of gas from the alveolar air spaces into the pulmonary capillaries.

Lung Volumes

This measures the total amount of air in your lungs. The main 4 capacities measured are:

  • TLC (total lung capacity)
  • FRC (functional residual capacity)-volume of gas in the lung at end-expiration
  • VC (vital capacity)- change in volume from full inspiration to full expiration
  • IC (inspiratory capacity)-maximum gas inspired from normal end expiration (FRC)

Maximal Inspiratory/Expiratory Pressures:

The measurement of respiratory muscle forces (or strength), maximum inspiratory pressure (MIP or PImax), and maximum expiratory pressure (MEP or PEmax) are direct tests that are simple to perform and are well tolerated by patients. The test assesses the aggregate force or pressure that respiratory muscles can generate against an occlusion at the mouth. PImax is an index of diaphragm strength, while PEmax measures the strength of abdominal and intercostal muscles.

Maximal Voluntary Ventilation: Maximal Voluntary Ventilation (MVV) is the volume of air exhaled in 12 seconds during rapid forced breathing. MVV tests the overall function of the respiratory system. It is influenced by airway resistance, respiratory muscles, compliance of the lungs and/or chest wall, and ventilatory control mechanisms.

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Pre-requisites For Pulmonary Function Testing

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) are breathing tests designed to assess how well your lungs are functioning. These tests measure lung volume, capacity, rates of flow, and gas exchange.

  • Arrive On Time: It’s crucial to arrive on time for your appointment. If you are late by 20 minutes or more, you may be asked to reschedule.
  • Comfortable Attire: Wear loose, comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your ability to take deep breaths.
  • Do not eat a large meal within 2 hours before the test.
  • Exercise Limitation: Refrain from heavy exercise for at least 30 minutes prior to the test.
  • No Alcohol: Avoid consuming alcohol for at least 4 hours before the test.
  • No Smoking: Do not smoke on the day of the test.

Medication Guidelines

If you are scheduled for spirometry pre or post-bronchodilation, you will need to stop using your bronchodilator medications as follows:

  • Short-acting beta agonists (e.g., albuterol/proair/ventolin): Stop 6 hours before the test.
  • Short-acting anticholinergic Ipratropium (Atrovent): Stop 12 hours before the test.
  • All other inhalers: Do not take the routine daily inhalers the day prior and the day of the test.

Note: Bring a list of all your medications, including dose, frequency, and the reason for taking them.

Maximum Voluntary Ventillation

Additional Preparations for Exercise Tests

If you are scheduled for a six-minute walk test or an exercise test:

  • Comfortable Footwear: Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking.
  • Assistive Devices: Bring any assistive walking device you normally use.

Questions and Further Information

If you have any questions or require additional information, don’t hesitate to contact your medical care team at 443 499 400

Our Providers

Dr. Naveed Hasan’s proficiency in pulmonology extends to pulmonary testing, enabling him to offer patients a personalized assessment and intervention. His approach encompasses a range of pulmonary testing techniques, allowing for the development of tailored treatment plans that consider the unique needs and preferences of each individual.