The pulmonary function test helps assess the working capacity of the lungs by measuring the amount of airflow from it. Read the below article to know more.
What Are the Indications for Pulmonary Function Tests?
Following are the indications for performing pulmonary function tests;
- A pulmonary function test is used to assess the working capacity of the lungs before doing any major surgery.
- This test is used to diagnose chronic medical conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
- Long-term diseases like asthma and breathing difficulty are analyzed to check the severity of the disease.
- Any lung disease can be interpreted using a pulmonary function test.
How Useful is the Pulmonary Function Test During Diagnosis?
Lung Capacity: A pulmonary function test is used to determine the capacity of the lungs to supply oxygen to all body parts.
Emphysema: The doctors use pulmonary function tests to evaluate the improvement in chronic conditions like bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder like emphysema.
Respiratory Illness: This test is useful to track the record of any respiratory infections.
Asthma: A pulmonary function test is used to monitor conditions like asthma.
Pulmonary Fibrosis: It is used to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis, in which the lung lacks the functioning capacity.
Bronchiectasis: In bronchiectasis, the airways are blocked by infections. A pulmonary function test is used to evaluate the bronchus (main air passage to the lungs).
Asbestosis: Life-threatening diseases like asbestosis are diagnosed by pulmonary function tests. Asbestosis results in breathing difficulty. A pulmonary function test is used to observe the airflow.
Respiratory Muscles: Chronic respiratory conditions weaken the chest muscles. A pulmonary function test is used to inspect the respiratory muscles of the chest wall.
Sarcoidosis: Organ inflammatory conditions like sarcoidosis affect the lungs functioning ability. It can be diagnosed using pulmonary function tests.
Surgery: Pulmonary function tests play a vital role in lung cancer. It is used to determine whether the surgery is required or not.
What Is the Purpose of Different Types of Pulmonary Function Tests?
There are more than five types of pulmonary function tests. The doctor might ask to take one or more tests depending upon the type of respiratory illness.
It is useful for diagnosing chronic respiratory ailments like asthma and emphysema (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder). Spirometry can estimate the quantity of air that expired out of the lungs. It estimates how promptly the lungs exhale.
Steps to Follow for Spirometry Test:
- The machine is attached to a mouthpiece made out of plastic. The patient is made to sit straight to allow an easier airflow from and to the lungs. The mouthpiece should fit the mouth tightly so that the air flows through the mouthpiece to the machine.
- The nose clip is worn to prevent breathing through the nose. The patient must take a deep breath before exhalation and blow out the air completely from the lungs during exhalation.
- The same technique is repeated during the test two more times. Normal breathing is permitted in between the two tests.
- The doctor prescribes medication to ease the airflow. In addition, spirometry can examine the exhalation capacity of the lungs after the therapy.
2. Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET):
A cardiopulmonary test is used to assess the functioning ability of the lungs after a workout. During physical activity, our body consumes oxygen as an energy source. CPET can measure the amount of oxygen utilized by the body. The treadmill is the most commonly used by the doctor to determine physical exertion. CPET is used to inspect various organs like the heart, lungs, muscles, and blood vessels.
It has various parts like EKG (electrocardiogram) leads, a cuff, a pulse oximeter, and a mouthpiece. The EKG leads are used to evaluate the heart rate. The oximeter is used to measure blood oxygen level saturation. A meter is attached along the tube and mouthpiece. This meter estimates the airflow in and out of the lungs. The time taken for this test is around 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Bronchial Provocation Test:
The bronchial provocation test is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the lungs during asthma. The doctor exposes you to the allergy to check the responsiveness of the lungs.
This test also examines lung capacity after physical exertion. Methacholine causes constriction of the airways. The asthma patient is more prone to methacholine reactions. This test evaluates the symptoms of asthma due to methacholine.
4. Exhaled Nitric Oxide Test:
As the name says, this test measures the amount of nitric oxide exhaled in the breath. You should take a deep breath and exhale entirely into the mouthpiece. The monitor shows the percentage of nitric oxide present in the breath.
5. Pulse Oximetry Test:
This test estimates the oxygen saturation level in the blood. The pulse oximeter is positioned in the forehead, finger, or other body parts. Results are obtained at the exact moment.
6. Plethysmography Test:
A mouthpiece is attached to the booth to calculate the air pressure. The lung volume is measured using this test when you exhale through the mouthpiece.
7. Diffusion Capacity Test:
The diffusion capacity test analyzes the functional capacity of the alveoli in the lungs. You should inhale carbon monoxide before the test. The diffusion capacity test determines the capacity of the lungs to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide.
How Should You Prepare for the Pulmonary Function Test?
Before taking the test, you must stop the medications. Medications interfere with the test results. So, you should stop the medication taken for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. You should not eat stomach full or drink products that contain caffeine. You should not smoke or drink alcohol before the test.
Before taking the pulmonary function test, prepare for the test as per the doctor’s advice.
You can take a rest after doing physical exertions during the cardio-pulmonary exercise test. However, you should avoid this test if you have undergone heart surgery or eye surgery in recent months. It is considered a safe test because the test involves only breathing action.
A pulmonary function test is used as an adjunct to the final diagnosis. Since the test involves faster breathing, there is a feeling of light-headedness after the test. Fainting is the most common experience after a pulmonary function test. In severe asthma cases, the test may worsen the condition. However, medical professionals will help the patient to overcome such situations.