Routine Pulmonary Function Test

What is a pulmonary function test?
How do you get ready for the test?
What is done during the routine pulmonary function test?
How long will the test take?


What is a pulmonary function test?

Pulmonary function testing measures how well you are breathing. There are different types of breathing tests that can be done during pulmonary function testing. They include spirometry, lung volumes and diffusing capacity. Spirometry can show how much air you can breathe in and out. It also shows how fast you can breathe in and out. Lung volumes can provide further information about how your lungs are functioning. Diffusing capacity can show how well your lungs move oxygen from the lungs to the blood. The results of pulmonary function testing can help your doctor find the best treatment plan for you.


How do you get ready for the test?

Please follow these directions when getting ready for this test. These medicines will affect the results of some of these tests and need to be stopped before the testing is done. If the medicine is not stopped before the test we will not be able to complete the test.

  • Stop these inhaled medicines for 24 hours before your appointment:
    • Advair® (Serevent® and Flovent®)
    • Serevent® (Salmeterol)
    • Symbicort® (Pulmicort® and Foradil®)
    • Dulera® (Azmanex® and Foradil®)
    • Foradil® (Formoterol)
    • Perforomist® (Formoterol)
    • BrovanaTM (Arfomoterol)
    • Spirivaƒ (tiotropium)
  • Stop these inhaled medicines for 6 hours before your appointment:
    • Atrovent® (Ipatroprium)
    • Combivent®(Albuterol and Ipatropium)
    • DuoNeb® (Albuterol and Ipatropium)
  • Stop these inhaled medicines for 4-6 hours before your appointment:
    • Proventil HFA®, Ventolin HFA® ProAir® (Albuterol), Xopenex® (Levalbuterol), Maxair® (Pirbuterol), Alupent®, Metaprel® (Metaproterenol), Primatene® Mist.
  • Continue to take all your other medicine as you usually do.


What is done during the routine pulmonary function test?

You will do a number of breathing tests. The technician will explain what you need to do during each test. A good effort during the testing is important to get good results. The technician will coach you during each test to help you give a good effort. If you have questions during the tests, please ask the technician.

You may be asked to sit in a Plexiglas booth for some of the testing. This booth is called a body box or plethysmograph. You will do different breathing techniques, blowing into a tube, while in the booth. Each breathing technique is often repeated to make sure the test is reliable.

You may also inhale a quick-relief medicine. If you inhale the medicine the breathing tests will be repeated after the medicine. Your doctor can see what breathing changes you have after you inhale the medicine.

Learn more about how the test is performed.


How long will the test take?

Pulmonary function testing often takes 1 ½ hours to complete.


How do you get to your test?

On the day of your scheduled test, report to room A310a in the Pulmonary Physiology Unit (PPU). PPU is located on the 3rd floor of the May building. If you have questions please call the Pulmonary Physiology Unit at 303-398-1530.

Get directions and see a map of the National Jewish Health campus.


This information has been approved by E. Rand Sutherland, MD, MPH (January 2011).

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