Spirometry is a type of pulmonary function test that measures the amount of air volume in your lungs and the rate at which you can inhale and exhale in one forced breath. This procedure is done using a spirometer, which is a small device connected to a mouthpiece by a wired cable. The test works by measuring the movement of air in and out of your lungs to determine how well they function under different conditions. It is important to understand what is involved in the procedure to have an idea of what to expect before you go for a spirometry test. This article discusses everything you need to know about spirometry including how it is conducted and why it is important.
Why is Spirometry Done?
Your doctor may suggest a spirometry test if they suspect that your symptoms may have been caused by a chronic lung condition like pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, asthma, or chronic bronchitis. Spirometry can also be used to check the efficiency of your medications if you had earlier been diagnosed with a chronic lung disorder. It is used to determine whether your breathing condition is under control. It can also be used to screen for lung disorders that are related to the patients’ occupation.
How is Spirometry Conducted?
A spirometry test is done using a machine known as a spirometer. The procedure can be done by a doctor or nurse during a short visit to a health center. Your doctor, nurse or technician will give you specific instructions before you do the test. The test requires you to breathe into a tube attached to the spirometer. It is important to do the test correctly, as it influences the accuracy and credibility of the results.
You will be asked to breathe in and out as hard as you can into the tube for several seconds. Your lips should create a seal around the tube to prevent any air from leaking out. The procedure may be repeated at least three times to ensure consistency in the results. The test may be repeated once more with strict instructions if there is too much variation among the outcomes. The result is the highest value among the three consistent test results.
The entire process should take at least 15 minutes or more depending on the consistency of your results. After the first round of tests, a bronchodilator (inhaled medication) may be administered to open your lungs before waiting for another few minutes to do other sets of measurements. The doctor will use the results from the two measurements to determine whether your airflow improved after using the bronchodilator.
Understanding the Results and What Happens Next
The results from a spirometry test may give your doctor information about why you are experiencing noisy breathing, frequent coughs, or shortness of breath as it helps diagnose certain lung problems. Normal values are often calculated based on gender, age, and overall height. A lung problem may be present if the value is considered abnormal. There are situations when a patient with normal lungs may receive abnormal breathing test values. In all scenarios, your doctor will always explain the meaning of your test results. They may recommend medicines or inhalers to improve your lung function depending on the results of the test. A spirometry test can be performed during future visits to monitor your lung function.
Why is Spirometry Important?
Spirometry is used to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and any other conditions that may affect normal breathing. It may be used periodically to monitor your lung condition and determine whether the drugs you are using for a chronic lung condition is working effectively. Lung diseases can be diagnosed in their early stages through routine spirometry for the treatment to be more effective. The results from all the procedures done during the test can help your doctor find the best treatment plan for your condition.
It is important to discuss your respiratory condition with your doctor as it helps them adjust your treatment plan. Some tests may require forced inhalation and exhalation while others may require you to breathe quietly and normally. Regardless of the procedure used to conduct a spirometry test, it is important to follow the instructions given by the doctor, nurse or technician performing the test to get the most accurate results for diagnosis.