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Pulmonary Function Tests - Types And Reasons To Undergo Them!

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, MD - Respiratory Medicine , Trained In Treating Sleep Disorder , Trained In Interventinal Bronchoscopy , Trained In Medical Thoracoscopy , Trained In Rigid Bronchoscopy
Pulmonologist, Delhi  •  39years experience
Pulmonary Function Tests - Types And Reasons To Undergo Them!

Lung function is a major indicator of health since it determines the amount of Oxygen that a body is getting. Doctors resort to Pulmonary Function Tests if there is a problem with breathing or the lungs. Pulmonary tests show how the lungs are functioning. These tests measure parameters like lung capacity, lung volume, gas exchange, rate of flow, etc.

Armed with information from these tests, a doctor can decide whether a person has some issues with lungs or not. And if there’s some issue, doctor will be able to easily decide the line of treatment for accelerated recovery.

Type Of Pulmonary Function Tests

There are two common types of Pulmonary Function Tests: Spirometry and Plethysmography

Spirometry Test

● This test measures how much air a person can inhale and exhale, as well as how fast one can empty the lungs.
● It may also be done to monitor the lung condition periodically to measure the outcome of a treatment a person may be undergoing.
● In this test, a person needs to breathe into a tube. The tube is attached to a 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.
● 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 so that he gets consistent result.

Plethysmography Test

● This measures how much air is actually in the lungs after a deep inhalation.
● During the test, one needs to sit in a plastic box, wear a clip on the nostrils, wrap lips around a special mouthpiece and breathe in and out through it.

Why To Undergo Pulmonary Function Tests

Doctors may conduct Pulmonary Function Tests even on healthy people. If a person works in certain hazardous environments like graphite factory, coal mine, etc., the employer may order such tests on a regular basis. People working in such places are at risk of developing Pulmonary problems.

However, the most common condition when a doctor may advise a PFT is when someone faces health problems like:

● Respiratory infections
● Allergies
● Breathing problem after injury
● Chronic lung problems like Bronchiectasis, Asthma, Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, etc.
Tumors in the lungs or scarring or inflammation of the lungs

Diseases That May Precipitate The Need For A PFT

Sarcoidosis, a disease characterised by the formation of lumps of inflammatory cells around the lungs, spleen, eyes, skin, etc.
Asbestosis, a disease that results from inhalation of Asbestos particles.
Scleroderma, which causes thickening of connective tissues.

One of the Pulmonary Function Tests may be advised by a doctor for a variety of reasons. These tests do not always mean that Lungs have a problem. They are just a way to measure the parameters of working of the Lungs so that a Physician can treat a problem effectively if found.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!
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