Tests for lung function are designed to determine how well the lungs take in and release oxygen, as well as how efficiently the exchange of gases take place in the body.
The ability to breathe is, no doubt, a requirement for living. When the lungs are diseased and can not function properly, the health suffers, as does the quality of life.
The main function of the lungs is to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. As blood circulates through the body, it picks up oxygen from the pulmonary system (lungs) and carries it to the rest of the cells of the body. If this process is hindered in anyway, such as with asthma or emphysema, the body is unable to get it’s oxygen needs satisfied and cells begin to die. This is when you need a lung function test.
Lung function tests:
People who suffer from chronic lung diseases are given tests to measure how well the lungs are functioning. These tests include:
Spirometry testing involves breathing into a mouthpiece connected to a spirometer that records the amount of air that can be released from the lungs and how fast it is released. The spirogram is the test results printed out in a chart.
The gas diffusion test measures oxygen and other gases, such as carbon dioxide that cross the alveoli per minute, and how efficiently these gases are absorbed into the blood stream. This test also includes the arterial blood gas (ABG) test designed to measure the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
Body plethysmography measures the amount of oxygen the lungs can hold, or total lung capacity. In addition, body plethysmography measures the amount of air left in the lungs after exhalation, also called residual volume.
Inhalation challenge, or provocation study, measures the lung’s response to substances that can cause asthma symptoms to occur.
This test is typically used for people with cystic fibrosis. A tracer gas is inhaled, then the output is monitored while breathing normal air.
It is important that you not use a bronchodilator or sedative before testing, as these can greatly impact the results. Lung function tests may also be contraindicated for the following reasons:
– Abnormal breathing due to pain
– Caffeine intake
– Inability to follow instructions
– Obesity, or after eating a heavy meal
Your doctor will give you complete instructions on how to prepare for these tests. Most of all the testing is non-invasive and painless. During the Arterial blood gas test, you may feel some discomfort while the needle is being inserted. It usually takes less than a minute to get the required amount of blood needed to check blood gases.
Once diagnosis has been made, your doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatment for your condition. Following the treatment plan as ordered by your physician to manage the disease process will help you to maintain optimum health and quality of life.