Pulmonary Function Test: What to Expect

Pulmonary Function Test: What to Expect

Nearly 37 million Americans have a chronic lung disease like asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Not only can these diseases damage lung tissue, but they also prevent the lungs from working the way they should.

When your lungs are impaired, they may not collect or distribute the oxygen your body needs to stay healthy. Treating lung diseases early is the best way to minimize the impact of these diseases and the complications they can cause.

At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, Ashish Pal, MD, uses advanced pulmonary function tests (PFT) to evaluate how your lungs are working. Combined with diagnostic imaging and other tests, PFTs can help Dr. Pal diagnose lung problems and manage their treatment over time.

Here’s how PFTs work and what to expect during your test.

Pulmonary function tests: What they do

Pulmonary function testing evaluates:

Pulmonary function tests (or lung function tests) can be used to diagnose and monitor an array of medical problems, including obstructive lung problems that block airflow and restrictive problems that limit how much air your lungs can take in. These diseases and conditions include:

Lung function testing can also be used to diagnose lung problems caused by non-lung diseases and conditions, like heart failure, neuromuscular diseases, and obesity.

Types of tests

At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, Dr. Pal uses a series of six tests to monitor and assess lung function.

Forced expiratory volume (FEV) and forced vital capacity (FVC)

FEV measures how much air you can exhale during forced exhalation. FVC is the total amount of air that you exhale during the FEV test. Together, the FEV and the FVC play critical roles in identifying many lung diseases.

Slow vital capacity (SVC)

While the FEV and FVC tests measure exhalation during a forced breath, SVC measures the amount of air that exits your lungs when you exhale normally.

Maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV)

MVV evaluates how much air you can move in and out of your lungs during a 10-second interval. 

Lung diffusion (DLCO)

This test assesses how easily your lungs can diffuse (or move) air from your lungs into the rest of your body. It involves inhaling and holding your breath for a brief period of time.

Single breath O2

For your lungs to work the way they’re supposed to, air needs to reach all of your lung tissue. Some diseases prevent that. This test measures how well the air you breathe in is distributed in your lungs. 

Nitrogen washout

This test measures the full volume of your lungs. The FEV and FVC measure volume, too, but it’s impossible to exhale all the air in your lungs. This test uses a special technique to measure total lung capacity.

What to expect during your PFT visit

Most lung function tests take 30-60 minutes, and you’ll be asked to repeat many of these tests two or more times. That’s to ensure your doctor can get the most accurate readings. 

Before and during each test, your provider gives you specific instructions on when and how to breathe during the test. It’s important to follow those instructions closely to minimize the number of times you need to repeat the tests and to ensure the assessment is as accurate as possible.

Our office also gives you instructions on how to prepare for your tests. For the most part, that includes avoiding some activities, like eating or drinking, for several hours prior to testing. 

You need to avoid smoking and caffeine on the day of your test. These steps support greater accuracy by making sure your lungs are working the way they normally do.

Love your lungs

Pulmonary testing is noninvasive and painless — and if you have breathing issues, it’s one of the best things you can do to keep your lungs healthy. 

To learn more about pulmonary function testing at our offices in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, call or book an appointment online today.

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