A pulmonary function test (PFT) is a common and important assessment for patients who suffer from lung conditions. A PFT measures how well you can blow air out of your lungs, how much oxygen is in the blood flowing through the lung tissue, and other related factors. Here at Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Brookings, OR, we offer this testing to help diagnose and treat your respiratory health issues.
What Happens During a Pulmonary Function Test?
Understand What It Is
A pulmonary function test (PFT) is an easy and non-invasive way of assessing how well your lungs are working. These tests measure the lungs’ ability to transfer air in and out of the body and can identify obstructions that restrict airflow or other abnormalities that lead to breathing difficulties.
If you are experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, or chest pain while exercising, you should consider getting tested to see if your lungs need help clearing out mucus and other substances which may be causing the problem. A PFT can be used to diagnose conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB) infection, asthma, or congestive heart failure.
Our health care professional will ask you questions about your symptoms, medical history, and current medications during the consultation. One of the first things we may do is examine the inside of your mouth to check for signs of lung cancer, such as difficulty swallowing or hoarse voice.
The doctor might also want to listen to your lungs with a stethoscope so that they can hear how air is moving through each lung at any given time. We’ll then use this information along with other factors like height, weight, gender, and age to determine what kind of PFTs are right for you. If necessary, we may order blood tests beforehand to help identify certain conditions.
It is important to follow any special instructions given by our doctor in preparation for the test. For example, if you are being tested for asthma, our staff may instruct you not to eat or drink dairy products before arriving at our office. That’s because these foods can cause an allergic reaction that triggers wheezing. In addition, avoid taking any bronchodilator medications for at least 4 hours before the test.
You should also avoid smoking for at least 4 hours before the test since smoking can affect your lung function. We also recommend that you wear loose-fitting clothing and shoes without laces on the day of your PFTs to make it easier for us to monitor how well air moves into or out of your lungs.
There are different PFTs to choose from, so our health care professional will decide which one would be best for your case and answer any questions you have before the testing begins. The most common type is spirometry, where a tube is inserted into either nostril while you breathe out as hard and fast as possible over several seconds until there’s no air left in your lungs. This process makes it easier for us to see how much force was used when exhaling because that information can indicate if certain conditions are present or not.
Forced vital capacity (FVC) is a common measurement used to determine the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled. The measurement is done by asking you to breathe out until every bit of air has been expelled from deep within the lungs. These tests are repeated three times for each lung using different amounts of pressure so that we can see what happens under various conditions.
If you have a condition, our doctor will discuss the results in detail and talk to you about ways that we can help. For example, if your PFTs reveal signs of asthma or COPD, then we may prescribe medication that could improve how well air moves through your lungs so that it’s easier for you to breathe when exercising. In some cases, surgery is necessary to fix any damage done by diseases such as lung cancer or tuberculosis (TB).
We also strive to provide excellent care throughout every phase of testing, from pre-testing preparation all the way until after tests are completed and results analyzed. We understand that this is an important time for patients who need reassurance regarding their health concerns.
Why Might I Need A Pulmonary Function Test?
There are many reasons why a pulmonary function test might be necessary, especially if you have been experiencing lung-related problems. We may suggest PFTs to diagnose problems such as:
The most common cause of wheezing is an allergy to something like pollen, dust mites, mold spores, or certain medications. A PFT can help our healthcare professional determine if this might be the case and what kind of treatment would work best for you. It’s also important to note that severe allergies may sometimes require emergency care.
Asthma is a respiratory disease that affects the airways and makes it difficult to breathe. When you have an asthma attack, the muscles around your lungs tighten up, which causes more mucus to collect in the airway passages. This mucus buildup then triggers swelling, coughing fits, and wheezing because there’s less room for oxygen to pass through when breathing in.
Asbestosis occurs when you breathe in asbestos particles that irritate your lungs and cause them to stiffen up. This condition can lead to lung cancer, so it’s important for our doctors to determine if this is indeed the case by having a PFT done soon after symptoms begin.
4. Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic Bronchitis is a respiratory disease that causes the airways to become irritated by mucus and fluid buildup, making it difficult to breathe freely. This condition is often caused by long-term exposure to substances such as cigarette smoke or industrial chemicals.
Sarcoidosis is a rare lung disorder that can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, liver, or other organs. This condition often leads to fatigue and shortness of breath during exertion as well as coughing fits which are sometimes severe enough to bring up blood.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that can affect the lungs, kidneys, skin, and other organs in your body. It causes the immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, which leads to the hardening of tissue all over one’s body. One area where this condition often shows up first is within the lungs, where it causes scarring around air sacs, making it more difficult for oxygen to pass through into blood vessels when breathing out.
What Does A PFT Measure?
There are several respiratory measurements that are typically included in a pulmonary function test. These include:
1) Vital Capacity (VC)
The vital capacity is an important measurement of how much air you can breathe out after taking the deepest breath possible. The VC measures both your inhalation and exhalation, which represents overall lung health.
2) Tidal Volume (TV)
The tidal volume measures how much air you breathe in and out after one normal, relaxed breath.
3) Minute Volume (MV)
The minute volume measures the total amount of air you breathe in and out each minute. This is an important measurement for determining how much oxygen your tissues receive with every breath you take.
4) Residual Volume (RV)
A residual volume test involves exhaling as hard and long as possible after taking a deep breath so we can determine what percentage of air remains within your lungs once they’re fully inflated.
5) Total Lung Capacity (TLC)
The total lung capacity represents the maximum amount of air that you can breathe in and out. The TLC is determined by adding together your vital capacity, tidal volume, and residual volume measurements. This test gives us a good picture of how healthy your lungs are overall, which helps our doctors determine if further testing or treatment might be needed to address any medical concerns.
6) Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR)
The peak expiratory flow rate measures how quickly air flows out of your lungs during forceful exhalation. This can be used to determine if you’re experiencing any obstruction within the airways that makes breathing more difficult than usual, such as wheezing or coughing.
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A pulmonary function test is a useful diagnostic tool that can help us determine if you’re experiencing any medical concerns. The test measures a broad range of respiratory measurements to provide a comprehensive picture of your overall lung health. Call us at Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Brookings, OR, to learn more about this test and how it can help you.