Pulmonary Function Tests: Everything You Need to Know

Pulmonary Function Tests: Everything You Need to Know

A pulmonary function test (PFT), which is also called lung function testing, is used to measure how well the lungs are performing. The test is a noninvasive procedure that requires you to breathe using a special device attached to your mouth or to stand or sit inside a phone-booth-like box.

The mouthpiece device is referred to as a PFT spirometry test. The spirometer is connected directly to a small computer that records each breath and translates this into usable data.

The phone-booth-like box test is referred to as a PFT plethysmography test. Instead of a mouthpiece, you are placed inside the box and it is sealed so it is air-tight. As you breathe in and out, sensors and other devices inside the box monitor and record the test data.

What Is a Pulmonary Function Test Used For?

A PFT can be ordered by your healthcare provider if you are experiencing one of two different types of breathing disorders, to determine the cause for the breathing problem. The first type of disorder is referred to as restrictive breathing.

This condition is when you are breathing in, yet your lungs cannot expand sufficiently enough to accommodate the air. As such, you can experience labored breathing since your body is getting a reduced amount of air through the lungs.

The second condition is referred to as obstructive breathing. This condition is when you are not able to exhale a sufficient amount of air with each breath. There is essentially something blocking the airflow that can cause you to take shorter and faster breaths.

Who Gets a Pulmonary Function Test?

Anyone who suffers from respiratory and breathing problems can be referred to take a PFT by their healthcare provider. Other types of health conditions one may have that could warrant a PFT could include:

  • Asthma
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Scoliosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Inflammation of the Lungs
  • Allergies
  • Post-Op Breathing Problems
  • Breathing Problems Following a Chest Injury
  • Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
  • Scleroderma
  • Exposure to Asbestosis and Other Hazardous Materials
  • Part of an Annual Wellness Physical
  • Family History of Lung/Respiratory Problems
  • Pre-Surgery Check

Keep in mind, these are just some of the more common reasons a PFT might be prescribed. There can be other reasons and medical conditions when a healthcare provider could recommend getting a PFT.

What Does a Pulmonary Function Test Measure?

A PFT is used to measure various information about airflow rates, air capacity of the lungs, the air volume in the lungs, and the exchange rate of gas (i.e., oxygen and carbon dioxide). Your test results are used to determine if you have a lung disorder and to decide on an effective treatment plan.

How Often Does a Pulmonary Function Test Needs to Be Performed?

A PFT can be performed at set intervals based on the patient’s needs, current medical conditions, age, and overall health and well-being. For instance, if you had surgery on your lungs to remove pre-cancerous lung nodules, your surgeon can prescribe PFTs as part of your post-op recovery. Your surgeon may have also had you take a PFT prior to surgery to use the test results as a benchmark to compare to your post-op tests.

Are There Any Adverse or Serious Side Effects of a Pulmonary Function Test?

Both types of PFTs are noninvasive procedures that are safe with very little risks of adverse or serious side effects. However, as with any procedure or test, there can be certain risks you should be aware of, such as:

  • Triggering an Asthma Attack
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Dizziness/Lightheadedness

Types of Pulmonary Function Tests

Please feel free to explore Medical Device Depot to find medical equipment used for PFT and lung function testing you and your healthcare facility needs. You may also call us at 877-646-3300 if you have further questions or need help finding specific items.