Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are noninvasive tests that show how well the lungs are working. The tests measure lung volume, capacity, rates of flow, and gas exchange. This information can help your healthcare provider diagnose and decide the treatment of certain lung disorders.
There are 2 types of disorders that cause problems with air moving in and out of the lungs:
PFT can be done with 2 methods. These 2 methods may be used together and perform different tests, depending on the information that your healthcare provider is looking for:
Normal values for PFTs vary from person to person. The amount of air inhaled and exhaled in your test results are compared to the average for someone of the same age, height, sex, and race. Results are also compared to any of your previous test results. If you have abnormal PFT measurements or if your results have changed, you may need other tests.
There are many different reasons why pulmonary function tests (PFTs) may be done. They are sometimes done in healthy people as part of a routine physical. They are also routinely done in certain types of work environments to ensure employee health (such as graphite factories and coal mines). Or you may have PFTs if your healthcare provider needs help to diagnose you with a health problem such as:
PFTs may be used to check lung function before surgery or other procedures in patients who have lung or heart problems, who are smokers, or who have other health conditions. Another use of PFTs is to assess treatment for asthma, emphysema, and other chronic lung problems. Your healthcare provider may also have other reasons to advise PFTs.
Because pulmonary function testing is not an invasive procedure, it is safe and quick for most people. But the person must be able to follow clear, simple directions.
All procedures have some risks. The risks of this procedure may include:
In some cases, a person shouldn’t have PFTs. Reasons for this can include:
Your risks may vary depending on your general health and other factors. Ask your healthcare provider which risks apply most to you. Talk with him or her about any concerns you have.
Certain things can make PFTs less accurate. These include:
Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Ask him or her any questions you have. You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully. Ask questions if anything is not clear.
Tell your healthcare provider if you take any medicines. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Make sure to:
Your height and weight will be recorded before the test. This is done so that your results can be accurately calculated.
You may have your procedure as an outpatient. This means you go home the same day. Or it may be done as part of a longer stay in the hospital. The way the procedure is done may vary. It depends on your condition and your healthcare provider's methods. In most cases, the procedure will follow this process:
If you have a history of lung or breathing problems, you may be tired after the tests. You will be given a chance to rest afterwards. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about your test results.
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