A care provider assisting a patient during a pulmonary function test

Pulmonary function testing may involve one or several tests of your lungs including spirometry, lung volumes, diffusion testing, and oxygen saturation measurement by oximetry or blood gas sampling.

These are tests which determine how well your lungs are functioning and most involve blowing into a tube with your nose plugged. We measure the volume, flow and oxygen transfer capabilities of your lungs.

Pulmonary function testing is very safe and a needle is only required if your doctor has requested blood gases to be drawn. This test DOES involve a lot of effort on your part. A doctor must order this test and if you have been given a requisition form from your doctor, please bring it with you.

Why did my doctor order this test?

There are many lung disorders, the most common being asthma, COPD, bronchitis, lung fibrosis and lung cancer. There are also heart, muscle and arthritic conditions which can affect the lungs. People can have symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing.

Your doctor will use the results of your pulmonary function test to help diagnose breathing problems or diseases and to determine if breathing medications are of help to you.

How should I prepare for this test?
  • Wear loose fitting clothing and no tight bras or corsets.
  • If you are able to, please do not take your inhalers/puffers for four hours before the test. The most common inhalers include: Ventolin (Salbutamol), Airomir, Oxeze, Atrovent, Combivent, Serevent and Tilade.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes before your test time so that you can be registered. Always bring your health card to any medical appointment.
  • You can eat before this test, but we do not recommend you have a large meal.
  • Please do not smoke or drink coffee prior to the test.
  • Bring a list of your medications, including your puffers, and allergies.
  • Be prepared to give a brief history of your health and symptoms.
  • If you do not speak English, please bring a family member with you who can interpret.
  • Parents of young children (under 16 years of age) will be required to stay with their child for the test.
  • If you think you may have an infectious disease, please let the technologist know before testing.

We generally do not perform tests on children under 6 years of age.

How long will the test take?

The test takes approximately 45 minutes to one hour. After the majority of breathing tests are performed, you will be given up to four puffs (400 mcg) of Ventolin. Approximately 10 minutes later the therapist will have you retry the first breathing test. This is a simple way of determining if the Ventolin has had an effect on your breathing.

Why should I have this test done at Grand River Hospital?

We strive for quality testing by qualified technologists. We follow the guidelines of the American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society strictly and perform the tests on state-of-the-art equipment. All breathing tests are interpreted by a respirologist. This is a physician that specializes in breathing problems.

When will I get the results?

Please be aware that the therapist is not allowed to give you the results of your pulmonary function test. The report will be interpreted by a respirologist on staff or by your own respirologist. A copy can be faxed the same day as your test if needed.