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Asthma

What is exactly an pulmonary test?

07/23/2008

Question:

Dear Sir, When I went to an allergy specialists, he said that I would need to have an pulmonary test before he would test me for my allergies. My primary doctor refered me to a specialist for testing. When I went in expecting to have the testing he said that after listening to my breathng and to what I was saying about the affects of the medicine that I was taking. he said that he wanted me to stop taking the medicine that I was on and then he said that he wanted me to have a pulmonary test before I actually have the allergy testing done, so this way he could see if it was the medicine or not. So what I guess that I am trying to say is "What is a pulmonary test?

Answer:

A pulmonary test is a measurement of lung function.  Asthma causes inflammation and swelling in the airtubes of your lungs.  Swelling in the airtubes makes them smaller slowing down airflow.  Your provider wants to test your lung function (airflow) off medicines to determine the severity of your asthma.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published guidelines in 2007 for the management of asthma which recommends treatment depending on the severity of asthma.

The most basic pulmonary function test is called a spirometry.  It can me done in the providers office and measures the forced vital capacity (FVC - full breath in and a full breath out) and the forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV 1).  The FEV 1 measures the amount of air you can blow out of your lungs in 1 second.  Normal is to empty 80% of the air out in 1 second.  Anything less than 80% indicates airflow obstruction (partial blockage caused by the swelling in the airtubes).  If there is airflow obstruction the provider may give you several puffs of a bronchodilator like albuterol and repeat the test to determine if the airflow improves.

Depending on your lung condition or the abnormalities found on the spirometry more advanced testing can be done in a pulmonary function lab.

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Response by:

Cathy   Benninger, RN, MS, APRN, C-AE Cathy Benninger, RN, MS, APRN, C-AE
Clinical Assistant Professor
Director, OSU Asthma Center Educational Program
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University