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Pulmonary Function Tests - When To Opt It?

Dr.Gurmeet Singh Chabbra 89% (65ratings)
MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, MD - Chest & TB
Pulmonologist, Faridabad
Pulmonary Function Tests - When To Opt It?

Pulmonary Function Tests or PFTs are a set of tests that are used to determine, measure or observe the functioning of the lungs. The most common pulmonary function tests used are spirometry, gas diffusion, and lung plethysmography.

Highlights of pulmonary function tests

  1. A spirometry test is used to measure the amount of air inhaled and exhaled. It also measures the amount of time taken to complete a respiration cycle.
  2. Lung plethysmography measures the amount of air in the lungs after the patient has taken a deep breath. It also measures the amount of air that remains in the lungs after the patient has exhaled as much air as possible.

What does a Pulmonary Function Test measure?
Pulmonary function tests would not only check how well the person is breathing but also how effectively the lungs are able to conduct oxygen to the rest of the body. In addition to airflow, these tests would measure the size and volume of the lung and lung diffusion.

These tests can also be used to measure

  1. Total Lung Capacity – the amount of air present in the lungs after breathing in deeply
  2. Forced Vital Capacity – the amount of air that can be exhaled after breathing in deeply
  3. Minute Volume – the amount of air exhaled per minute
  4. Vital Capacity – the total volume of air that can be breathed out after inhaling as much as possible
  5. Tidal Volume – the amount of air inhaled or exhaled when breathing normally
  6. Maximum voluntary ventilation – the amount of air that can be inhaled and exhaled in one minute
  7. Functional Residual Capacity – the amount of air that remains in the lungs when breathing normally
  8. Forced Expiratory Flow – the flow or volume of air during exhalation. Forced expiratory flow 25-75 is early marker of small airway impairment.
  9. Peak Expiratory Flow Rate –  PEFR is the maximum flow rate generated during a forceful exhalation after a full inspiration.

When are Pulmonary Function Tests recommended?
A physician might recommend a patient undergo a PFT as part of a routine physical check-up. This test would be advised if the patient is experiencing any symptoms associated with lung problems or disorders such as asthma, respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD. A doctor would also use these tests to monitor and check whether a certain treatment prescribed for lung disease or condition is working effectively.

Pulmonary function tests are safe as they are non-invasive but it is important to follow the instructions of the doctor or technician before, after and during the test. It is important to make your doctor aware of any surgeries, respiratory infections, chest pains or heart attacks that you might have experienced before the test. If you are taking any medications you might need to follow the advice of the doctor as to whether you can take them before the test.

Your doctor would also advise you on how to prepare for the test such as not eating a large meal, avoiding caffeine and wearing loose-fitting clothes. If you have any doubts, concerns or queries discuss them with your doctor.

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Pulmonary Function Tests - Why So Important?

MBBS, Diploma in Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases (DTCD), AFIH
Pulmonologist, Navi Mumbai
Pulmonary Function Tests - Why So Important?

Lung function is a major indicator of health since it determines the amount of Oxygen that a body gets. Doctors resort to Pulmonary Function Tests if there is a problem with breathing or the lungs. Pulmonary tests give insight into how the lungs are functioning.

These tests measure parameters like lung capacity, lung volumes, gas exchange, rate of flow, etc.

Armed with information from these tests, the doctor can decide whether a person has some issues with the lungs or not, and accordingly diagnose and decide the line of treatment for accelerated recovery.

Type Of Pulmonary Function Tests

  • For all practical purposes, PFT can be divided into two broad categories: Basic and Advanced.
  • Basic PFT is Routine Spirometry but advanced PFT includes a plethora of tests.

Basic PFT: Spirometry-

  • This test measures how much air a person can inhale and exhale, as well as how fast one can empty the lungs.
  • In this test, a person needs to breathe into a tube. The tube is attached to a computerized Spirometer.
  • Before the test, nostrils will be closed with a clip. The person will also need to create a seal around the tube so that there is no leakage of air.
  • The patient will be asked to take a deep breath and then breathe out as hard as possible through the tube.
  • The doctor may ask the person to repeat the effort three times or more so that he gets a consistent result.
  • Estimating PEFR(peak expiratory flow rate) by Peakflometry and measurement of peripheral oxygen saturation(SpO2) by Pulse Oximetry can be included as a part of basic PFT for the purpose of completion.
  • These tests apart from giving valuable information are very simple to perform and patient-friendly which can be done by patients at home or at the doctor’s clinic on a regular basis.

Advanced PFT
Advanced Pulmonary Function Testing includes different tests like:

  • FeNO(fractional exhaled nitrous oxide),
  • DLCO or TLCO(diffusion capacity or transfer factor),
  • Body Plethysmography,
  • Impulse Oscillometry,
  • 6MWT (6-minute walk test), etc

Why Undergo Pulmonary Function Tests?

Doctors may conduct Pulmonary Function Tests even on healthy people. It is a mandatory part of pre-employment and peri-employment workups in most industrial and corporate health checkup programs. If a person works in certain hazardous environments like graphite factory, coal mine, chemical factory, etc., the employer may order such tests on a regular basis. People working in such places are at increased risk of developing respiratory problems which could be detected on PFT at an early stage.

PFT is an important investigation for evaluating common respiratory symptoms like:

It is a very crucial diagnostic tool for diagnosing chest diseases like:

  • Asthma,
  • COPD,
  • Other Airway disorders,
  • Interstitial lung diseases,
  • Occupational lung diseases,
  • Pulmonary fibrosis,
  • Connective tissue diseases related to lung involvement, etc.

In a Nutshell-

  • PFT is a set of tests which act as a window to lungs functioning of an individual.
  • One of the Pulmonary Function Tests may be advised by a doctor for a variety of reasons.
  • These tests are a way to measure the parameters of working/functioning of the Lungs so that a Physician can treat the problem effectively (if detected) and then follow up to assess the effectiveness of treatment or progression of the disease process.
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Occupational Lung Disorders - Know Everything!

MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Diploma In HIV, DNB - Respiratory Diseases, V P Chest Delhi
Pulmonologist, Pune
Occupational Lung Disorders - Know Everything!
Black lung disease actually causes the lungs to char and turn black in colour? True or False? Take this quiz to find out.
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Dr. I have A nodular lesion over back of my neck. It's really painful and headache also. What do I do?

General Physician, Mumbai
For pain take tablet paracetamol 650 mg and if necessary after clinical examination we should plan for its excision

I want to become a pilot but my opacity in the lung is becoming a problem! Can lunch opacities go away when the treatment is over & will there be patches visible to stop me from the course?

Dr.Sajeev Kumar 90% (40299ratings)
C.S.C, D.C.H, M.B.B.S
General Physician, Alappuzha
YOur lung opacities need to be tested and treated . It can be a infection like pneumonia and you must get rid of it
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What Is Farmer's Lung?

Dr.Mool Chand Gupta 93% (37139ratings)
MD - Pulmonary, DTCD
Pulmonologist, Faridabad
What Is Farmer's Lung?
Farmer s lung is a temporary disease and can be reversed. True or false. Take this quiz to find out.
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644people took this quiz

Hi Sir, My brother is having a major chest infection according to doctors and he is deaf and dumb according to MRI and X-ray it shows that 70% chances of TB. But the TB injection test is negative. There is no mark and swelling anywhere. Still doctor has started the TB treatment just for one month trail. His urine is red in color and having itching on legs. Weight is reducing. Also having mild fever. What best we can do please suggest. Is it right to start TB treatment and how long it will take to cure the infection.

Dr.Tanmay Palsule 95% (6914ratings)
MD - Homeopathy, BHMS
Homeopath, Pune
X rays show a typical appearance in TB. So doctors can diagnose fairly accurately based on it. Many times the actual TB bacillus is not found because it is very slow growing organism. Doctors are correct in starting treatment. If it is limited to chest it takes around 6 months. If bone involved then it may take 18 months.
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I feel little swelling in my neck. Sometimes that swelling goes down to lung and some time I come up to neck. I am having difficulty in breathing. And I am suffering from excess urine at day and night. Whenever I seat without support I start feeling pain in lungs.

Dr.Pramod Kumar Sharma 93% (8274ratings)
Endocrinologist, Delhi
You need to be evaluated by a Physician without delay. He will also get some tests done like X-ray chest, CBC,FNAC of swelling, blood sugar test etc.
1 person found this helpful
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Hi Good Evening! Recently I have seen that I am having increased count in hemoglobin and RBC more than the limit. Report system given as erythrocytes. Is it a serious illness need to consult a physician. Please give your valuable suggestions. Thanks in advance.

Dr.Haresh Tolia 92% (203ratings)
MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
General Physician, Mumbai
Hi Good Evening!
Recently I have seen that I am having increased count in hemoglobin and RBC more than the limit. Rep...
High hb that is greater than 18 needs medical attention. Marginal increase. Slightly higher than 15.5 is normal.
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