A pulmonary function test (PFT) is a test to show how well your lungs are working. It measures your lung volume, capacity, flow rates, and gas exchange. These results help your doctor better understand how well your lungs are working or if there are other problems that are making it difficult to breathe, making you feel fatigued, or why there is reduced oxygen supply to your body. PFTs are particularly useful in assessing lung function before and after implementation of an intervention — either surgery or medication — to better evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

Shortness of breath can be a sign of an underlying problem such as asthma, emphysema, or other lung diseases. If you’re experiencing ongoing problems with breathing, a pulmonary function test may be recommended to gain a better understanding of how your lungs are working. A pulmonary function test would not be recommended for someone who recently experienced a heart attack, a collapsed lung, or has certain types of heart disease. The medical providers at Taylor Internal Medicine can help you determine if this test is right for you.

Why You Would Need a Pulmonary Function Test

Your doctor may suggest a PFT for a variety of reasons, including allergies, if you are exposed to environmental pollution, or you are having symptoms that indicate lung problems. Common reasons for pulmonary function tests include:

  • To diagnose lung diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, COPD or bronchitis.
  • To determine if exposure to chemicals in the workplace is affecting lung function.
  • To discover the cause of shortness of breath
  • To assess lung function before or after a surgery
  • To evaluate the progress of treatment for certain diseases
  • To evaluate the effect of medicines

What to Expect at Your Appointment

Because there are several different pulmonary function tests that can be used to assess different concerns, your doctor will discuss the specifics of your test with you. Generally, you will be asked to breathe in a variety of ways, using maximal effort to fill and empty your lungs. You may be asked to walk on a treadmill for a little bit to test lung function under exertion, or you may simply be asked to breathe under different conditions.

During the test, you will be monitored for safety and any health concerns. The entire testing process should take less than an hour and is non-invasive. Once the test is complete, your doctor will have a better idea of your lung function and how to proceed with diagnostic testing or treatment.


How to Prepare For Your Pulmonary Functions Test

As we mentioned earlier, there are several different PFT that you may be recommended to participate in, so the specifics of how to prepare for the test will depend on your doctor’s recommendations. Your provider will give you instructions, but some general preparation tips include:

  • Take your medications as prescribed, unless told to hold them
  • Do not smoke for 6 hours before the test
  • If you use an inhaler, bring it with you but avoid using it unless needed for 6-8 hours before the test
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you can walk a short distance in
  • Let your provider know if you need to stop the test

Your medical team at Taylor Internal Medicine is more than happy to answer all of your questions and will make every effort to keep you comfortable during the PFT. Contact us today and let us help you with your breathing issues.