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Pulmonary Function Tests

Pulmonary Function Tests: Overview, Preparation, Procedure, Recovery, Risks, and Aftercare

During pulmonary function tests (PFTs), the lungs are assessed for their ability to inhale and exhale air and their function. Healthcare providers use these tests to assess lung function, diagnose respiratory conditions, monitor disease progression, and assess treatment response.


Individuals may need to follow the following preparation guidelines before undergoing pulmonary function tests:

  • As smoking can affect lung function and skew test results, patients should refrain from smoking several hours before the test.

  • As certain medications may interfere with test results, patients should inform their healthcare provider of any medications they are taking. Before a test, healthcare providers may advise patients to temporarily stop taking certain medications.

  • To prevent potential interference with breathing patterns, some patients may be asked to fast before the test.


The following components are typically included in pulmonary function tests:

  • During spirometry, patients will be asked to take deep breaths and blow into a tube connected to a spirometer to measure how much and how fast they exhale and inhale air. During this test, lung capacity, airflow obstruction, and lung function parameters such as forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) are measured.

  • Testing the lung volume involves sitting inside a sealed booth or wearing a special vest connected to a machine that measures lung volume during inhalation and exhalation.

  • During inhalation of a specific gas mixture, diffusion capacity tests measure the rate at which oxygen is absorbed by the lungs. These tests assess how effectively oxygen moves from the lungs to the bloodstream.


It is not necessary to take a recovery period after pulmonary function tests. Patients can resume normal activities immediately after the test. Healthcare providers will discuss any follow-up steps or treatment recommendations with the patient after reviewing the test results.


Although pulmonary function tests are generally safe and well tolerated, there are some potential risks and considerations to keep in mind:

  • Patients may experience mild discomfort or fatigue during the test, particularly during maneuvers that require forceful breathing. However, these sensations usually subside after the test.

  • Patients with certain respiratory conditions may experience airway irritation during the test. Healthcare providers will closely monitor patients for any signs of distress and intervene if necessary.


Patients may receive the following guidance following pulmonary function tests:

  • Patients will schedule a follow-up consultation with their healthcare provider to review the test results, discuss any findings or abnormalities, and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

  • In order to effectively manage respiratory conditions, healthcare providers may adjust the patient's medication regimen or recommend additional tests or treatments based on the test results.

  • To optimize lung health and respiratory function, patients may receive recommendations for lifestyle modifications, such as quitting smoking, exercising, or making changes to their environment.

Working closely with their healthcare provider and undergoing pulmonary function tests can give individuals valuable insights into their lung health, identify respiratory issues early, and maintain optimal respiratory function.

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