It is often found that if you have a wheezing noise coming from your mouth, your doctor immediately suggests you get a PFT. However, this is not just restricted to wheezing noises, but also some other crucial symptoms, that make it essential for you to get the test done without any further due.
If you are asked by your doctor to get a PFT test, then the first step is to get familiar with it.
Before we discuss how a PFT test is done, we need to know what the term means. Pulmonary Function Tests, or PFTs, are a group of non-invasive tests that measure how well the lungs are functioning. They are used both as a diagnostic tool and to ascertain treatment response in patients suspected of or diagnosed with respiratory disease.
Henceforth these tests provide valuable information regarding the airways, lung parenchyma, and the pulmonary capillary bed by taking into account gas flow and exchange rates and measuring lung capacity and volume. All this information is then used by healthcare providers to diagnose and subsequently treat underlying respiratory diseases.
If you report to the doctor with a history of the following, they will likely recommend a PFT test for further assessment and to confirm a diagnosis.
The way a pulmonary function test is performed depends on the patient and the disease/condition being tested for. Pulmonary test procedures are usually carried out in these ways, and you may be asked to perform one or more. How a PFT test is done on you depends on your doctor’s recommendation:
A spirometer, also known as a breathing measurement device, is used to carry out one of the most common lung tests (spirometry). Spirometry measures airflow. The procedure is as follows:
The test duration is approximately 30 minutes, a non-invasive test; hence, pain or discomfort is usually minimal to none.
It is a method used for lung volume measurement. It is the most accurate method to test lung capacity. The procedure is as follows:
As you breathe, a change of pressure inside the box is used for lung volume measurement. The test is non-invasive, thus causing minimum to no discomfort/ pain. The duration of the test is roughly 15 minutes.
A CPET evaluates how your lungs, heart, and blood circulation perform during physical activities.
This specialized test lasts for about 10-15 minutes
This test measures the amount of oxygen and carbon monoxide transported from your lungs to your bloodstream as you breathe. This method, too, uses a breathing measurement device with a mouthpiece.
It quantifies the functioning of your air sacs (alveoli) responsible for the diffusion of these gasses to and from your bloodstream.
The test takes about 15 minutes to be carried out.
This test is usually carried out to diagnose or rule out asthma. It is used to assess the sensitivity of your lungs.
You will be exposed to irritants that act as asthma triggers, e.g. smoke or methacholine, to see how your airway responds.
Occasionally exercise may also be used as a part of this test to gauge airway constriction.
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Moreover, while a PFT is most commonly used for diagnosis, it may also be used as routine screening for people exposed to work environments such as mining or graphite factories. In addition to that, they are also used to monitor treatment efficacy and progression of disease in individuals who have already been diagnosed with pulmonary disease.
Doctors most commonly use a PFT to diagnose the following:
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A pulmonary test procedure helps measure the following:
The volume of air inspired or expired during normal breathing
Amount of air exhaled after maximum inhalation
The volume of air that remains in the lungs after normal exhalation
The volume of air that remains in the lungs after forceful exhalation
The total amount of air in the lungs remaining after maximum inhalation
Amount of air exhaled during forced exhalation
The maximum speed of forced exhalation
All of these quantifiable values are used to interpret and evaluate the functioning of your lungs. These values constitute the final PFT report handed to you/your doctor.
When a patient’s pulmonary function test is advised, the doctor will usually ask for the patient’s medical history. Make sure to detail all your symptoms and any medications you use, including over-the-counter medications and supplements.
Written consent is usually obtained from the patient before proceeding with the test.
The doctor will also record your height and weight to calculate results accurately.
Before the test, you may be advised to make certain habit changes a few hours in advance of the test, as detailed by your healthcare provider. These may include; smoking cessation, avoiding heavy meals and caffeine, and temporarily stopping certain medications that may interfere with the outcome of the test.
Please make sure to follow the advice of your healthcare provider and make sure to clarify any confusions or queries you might have.
How a PFT test is done is usually a very low-risk procedure in itself, especially since this test is non-invasive. However, like any diagnostic procedure, there are some risks involved which include:
Listed below are situations under which a PFT is not recommended to be performed on the patient
The following factors may affect the accuracy of your PFT results:
A PFT test is done on the recommendation of a medical professional; hence a referral is necessary to carry out a Pulmonary Test procedure. The results are usually available in the next 48 to 72 hours.
Your healthcare provider will discuss the findings of your report with you in detail and help you better understand your results.
To summarize, a PFT test is done to measure lung capacity and assess how well your lungs are functioning. A PFT procedure is easier for the patient since it’s non-invasive and does not typically cause pain. However, it cannot be self-administered and requires the referral of a licensed medical professional.
Pulmonary function tests consequently are an important diagnostic tool recommended annually as routine screening to measure disease progress and treatment efficacy in people diagnosed with respiratory problems.
Make sure to consult your healthcare provider or diagnostician if you have any further queries regarding how a PFT test is done.