Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are an important group of tests that measure how well your lungs are working. This will test how well you are able to breathe and how effective your lungs are at bringing oxygen to the rest of your body. These tests are also known as lung function tests. Your doctor may order these tests if:
- You’re having symptoms of lung problems
- You’re exposed to certain substances regularly
- They want to monitor the course of chronic lung disease, like asthma
- You’re having surgery and need to assess how well your lungs are working
What Can PFTs Diagnose?
Your doctor will order these tests to check how well your lungs are working, and if you already have a condition, like asthma, that is affecting your lungs, your doctor might order this test to see how the condition is progressing or responding to any treatments. PFTs can help diagnose conditions such as:
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Respiratory Infections
- COPD, formerly known as emphysema
- Pulmonary Tumor
- Lung Cancer
What Should I Expect?
If the idea of tests scares you, don’t worry, because these tests are not painful. Your doctor will instruct you to use maximal effort to blow out and then breathe in air. These tests will be repeated multiple times in order to make sure that the results are accurate. Before performing the tests, remember that:
- You should take any daily medications unless instructed otherwise
- Do not smoke for at least six hours before tests
- If you use a short-acting inhaler that is used as needed, try not to use it for 6-8 hours before testing, if possible
The exercise test is performed on a bike or treadmill and you should wear loose fitting and comfortable clothing and athletic shoes. You will be attached to a heart monitor and blood pressure machine so that your doctor can monitor your vital signs during the test. After the test, you can return to your normal daily activities while your doctor analyzes your results.