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Pulmonary Function Testing

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An indispensable tool for analyzing a patient’s pulmonary problem is the pulmonary function test or PFT.

What are Pulmonary Function Tests?

Pulmonary function testing - NYC

Pulmonary Function Tests sometimes referred to as breathing tests, tell us how well you breathe. They measure how much air you breathe in and out, how well your breathing muscles work to move your lungs and how well your lungs exchange gas by moving air from the small air sacs in the lung (alveoli), to the bloodstream. These tests are used to screen for health problems (i.e. asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, interstitial lung disease, pre-employment, pre-surgery, etc.), to monitor your condition, and to help determine which therapy and treatment should be prescribed. The PFT testing format, which has stood the test of decades, teases out the nature of cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and most other symptoms that might bring a patient to the pulmonary specialist.

  • Is there a problem with the bronchial tubes, large or small, that conduct air to and from the air sacs of the lung?
  • Is there a barrier to oxygen getting across the membrane between the air sac and that blood vessel or capillary?
  • Is the problem in the upper regions of the voice box or wind pipe?
  • Is there a combination of factors involved?

Patients may have nothing wrong with their lungs or bronchial tubes at all, but instead have a slowly progressing neurological or muscular disease.

Why are Pulmonary Function Tests Done?

You may have PFTs for many reasons; for example, to evaluate new breathing problems or cough, to check the status of your lung disease or neurologic problem, or to monitor other treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation. PFTs are also done many times as a precaution prior to surgery, especially if you have an underlying lung disease. PFTs also help your doctor know how well your medications are working, and can help him or her prescribe or adjust your medications. Overall, the results of your PFTs will help your doctor find the best treatment plan for you.

It takes the detailed and sophisticated testing equipment and technologists that we utilize to be able to approach these complex problems. A properly performed breathing test can differentiate between these areas and direct the patient toward the best management plan.

Preparation

There is no preparation for PFTs, but it is best to be relaxed. Wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid belts or girdles that may make it harder for you to breathe. You may be instructed to not take your breathing medications for a specific amount of time prior to the test. If this is a problem, please contact the office. You should avoid caffeine, and large meals before the PFT. Your doctor will provide you with further instructions.

Your Pulmonary Function Test

Your tests will be done here in the Pulmonary Function Laboratory of Kamelhar-Teller Pulmonary. We are very pleased and proud that our laboratory is registered with the American Thoracic Society, a recognition achieved by very few laboratories. We work very hard to maintain that level of testing in the office and closely follow all established guidelines and recommendations.

We have two full time technologists. Each has been involved in pulmonary function testing for many years. These individuals have worked at major institutions and major hospitals in the Metropolitan area. They have the skill to perform the testing and the ability to interact with patients of a very high level.

You will perform a number of different breathing maneuvers. The technologists will explain what you need to do before each maneuver. You will be coached and encouraged during each maneuver to help you give your best effort, thereby providing the most accurate results.

You will be asked to sit in a large plexiglass booth, called a Plethysmograph, for the testing. You will then blow into a tube fitted with a disposable mouth piece and filter. For example, you will be asked to breathe normally, slowly and forcefully. Most of the maneuvers are repeated for reproducibility and accuracy. You may also receive an inhaled medication to dilate (open) your airways or breathing passages and then asked to repeat the breathing tests after the medication. This allows the doctor to see what affect these medications have on your breathing.

How Long Does the Pulmonary Lung Function Test Take?

The average PFT takes about 45 minutes to complete. However, testing time varies depending on what the doctor requests. In most cases, the doctor will review the results with you upon completion. There is usually no after affects from the PFTs. However, some patients feel a little tired when they are finished. When the test is over you can resume your normal activities. Our staff is here to assist you. If you have any questions before, during or after the test, please feel free to ask.

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