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Pulmonary Function Testing

Pulmonary function tests are a group of tests that measure breathing and how well the lungs are functioning. These tests are routinely ordered to help diagnose lung disease and to track the progression of lung diseases. These basic tests help your physician broadly classify lung diseases into a category such obstructive lung disease (COPD, bronchiectasis, etc.) or restrictive lung disease (pulmonary fibrosis, obesity, etc.)

Prior to your initial visit your pulmonologist will need a full pulmonary function test. Your pulmonologist will review your test with you at the time of your visit. These tests will be scheduled at our office either prior to your appointment or the day your appointment. Usually patients can have testing performed the same day as their appointment. Tests are then scheduled annually or as clinically indicated.

State of the art technology is used to perform patient testing. Your comfort is very important and our machine, the Medgraphics™ Platinum Elite Plethysmograph allows for maximum patient comfort. It has a patient friendly atmosphere with an intercom system that allows for easy communication between the therapist and the patient. Testing includes spirometry with bronchodilator assessment, lung volume testing and diffusing capacity testing.

Our lab manager is a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) as well as a Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist (RPFT). She has in depth background in Pulmonary Function testing and Respiratory Therapy. Our technicians are Respiratory Therapist (RRT) with training in pulmonary function and are either certified (CPFT) or registered pulmonary function technologists (RPFT). All pulmonary function personnel work under the supervision a pulmonologist.

How to Prepare for the Test

Do not eat a heavy meal before the test. A full stomach may keep your lungs from fully expanding.
Do not smoke or due intense exercise for 4 to 6 hours before the test.
You will get specific instructions if you need to stop using bronchodilators or other inhaled medicines. You may have to breathe in medicine before or during the test.
Wear loose clothing that doesn’t restrict your breathing in any way.
Avoid food or drinks with caffeine. Caffeine can cause your airways to relax and allow more air than usual to pass through.
Wear your dentures. They help form a right seal around the mouthpiece of the machine.
Plan to use your hearing aid during testing.

Tell the technologist if you

Have had a recent chest pains or heart attack
Take medicine for lung problems such as asthma. You may need to stop taking some medicines before testing.
Are allergic to any medicines.
Have had a recent surgery on your eyes, chest, or belly, or if you have had a collapsed lung.

Why PFT’s are ordered

If there are symptoms of lung disease
As part of a routine physical
To monitor the progress of lung disease and the effectiveness of lung medications
To evaluate how well the lungs are working prior to surgery.
Pulmonary Function Tests can help diagnose asthma, allergies, chronic bronchitis, respiratory infections, lung fibrosis, bronchiectasis, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/emphysema), asbestosis, sarcoidosis, scleroderma, pulmonary tumor, lung cancer and many other lung diseases.

What to expect

You will breathe through a mouthpiece and wear a nose clip during the testes to keep air form leaking through the mouth and nose during the test.

Depending on the test you have ordered you will inhale and exhale as instructed by the technician. You will be asked to inhale and exhale as hard and as fast as possible. You may also be asked to breathe in and out as deeply and rapidly as you can for 15 seconds.

Some tests may be repeated after you have inhaled a medicine that expands the airways in your lungs. You may be asked to breathe a special mixture of gases. These mixtures are always safe and have no health risks.

If you have body plethysmography, you will be asked to sit inside a small enclosure. It’s similar to a telephone booth with windows that allows to see out and a speaker to that you may communicate with the technologist at all time during the test. The booth measures small changes in pressure that occur as you breathe.

It is very important to follow the instructions the technologist gives you, the accuracy of your test depends upon it. Let the technologist know if you do not understand the instructions, they will be happy to explain the instructions in a manner which you can understand.

Testing can take up to one hour depending on the tests you are having.


For a healthy person, there’s little or no risk in taking these tests. If you have a serious heart or lung condition, discuss your risks with your doctor.

Test Results

Your pulmonologist will discuss your test results with you at your appointment. If you would like, test results can be sent to your primary care physician.

Different measurements that may be found on your report after pulmonary function tests include:

Diffusion capacity to carbon monoxide (DLCO)
Expiratory reserve volume (ERV)
Forced vital capacity (FVC)
Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1)
Forced expiratory flow 25% to 75% (FEF25-75)
Functional residual capacity (FRC)
Maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV)
Residual volume (RV)
Peak expiratory flow (PEF).
Slow vital capacity (SVC)
Total lung capacity (TLC)