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Pulmonary Function Tests

Pulmonary Function Tests

Pulmonary Function Tests

Pulmonary function tests are a painless way to measure how well your lungs are working.  A complete series has three tests.  You may be given the entire series or only certain parts.  Testing may last up to an hour or more. 

The results may explain:

  • Shortness of breath or reason for difficulty breathing
  • The type of lung problem and progressions
  • How smoking may have affected the lungs
  • Whether breathing problems are at risk during general anesthesia

What to Expect

Follow any instructions your physician gives you to prepare for your Pulmonary Function test.  Otherwise, one or more of the tests may need to be canceled. 

You are asked to do the following:

  • Stop smoking for six hours before the test, or stop or as directed
  • Stop taking your breathing medication six hours before the test, or stop as directed
  • If you use a spacer or holding chamber with your inhaler, bring the spacer or holding chamber
  • Avoid caffeine four hours prior to test
  • Eat only a light meal and limit fluids a few hours before the exam
  • Wear loose clothes that don't restrict your breathing

Your test will be performed by a Registered Respiratory Therapist. Before you are tested, be sure to tell the Respiratory Therapist about any:

  • Medications you use, including inhalers and over-the-counter items such as vitamins and herbs
  • Allergies to latex, tape, or any medications
  • Health problems such as heart disease, as well as any surgeries
  • Recent illnesses, such as a chest cold or bronchitis
  • History of smoking, including how many years you smoked, how many packs per day you smoke and when you had your last cigarette

During Testing

The Respiratory Therapist will explain the testing procedure and will coach you during testing. You may sit in a chair and breathe through a mouthpiece or sit in a clear plastic box that looks like a phone booth. You will wear nose clips so you only breathe through your mouth. If you get tired, you can take a break between the tests.

After Testing

After testing, you can return to your normal diet and activity. If you were told to skip medications before testing, ask if you should take them now. Your doctor will go over the test results with you at your next visit.

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