Spirometry (lung function test) and Bronchodilator Response

During Clinic: The most common PFT performed is basic “spirometry”. This test checks the volumes and flow rates the patient is capable of producing by forcing (blowing) air out of their lungs into a mouthpiece. The test results can be compared at each visit to determine if lung function is staying the same, improving, or getting worse. A nose clip is used to keep air from coming out of the nose, so all the air goes into the mouthpiece. Three consistent forced expirations are required for a good test. A respiratory therapist in the pulmonary lab area will coach and encourage the patient during the test to get the best effort. The test takes about 20 minutes. Sometimes, the test is repeated after giving a treatment with a bronchodilator (Albuterol) to see if breathing changes with the medicine. Spirometry can help evaluate if a change in therapy is needed at home.

During Admission: Patients admitted to the hospital perform PFT’s soon after admission and usually several more times before going home (depending on the length of stay in the hospital). This is one way to evaluate how well a patient is improving during the hospital stay and decide when they are well enough to go home.