What Is a Pulmonary Function Test?

A Pulmonary Function Test (PFT), also called a breathing test, is a way of testing how well your lungs work. This testing is a part of diagnosing health conditions involving the lungs.  Health conditions like asthma, COPD, and certain lung infections, such as COVID, may affect your lung function.

There are handheld spirometry devices that are used for basic lung tests or screening, but the superior PFT test is performed in a Pulmonary Function Box. This test is preferred by the MANA Respiratory Therapists and Pulmonary Medicine doctors because the Pulmonary Function Box has the ability to precisely measure different parts of lung function. The box looks like an old-fashioned phone booth, with a comfortable seat and a mouthpiece connected with a spirometer. 

During a pulmonary function test, you will be given a clip to wear on your nose to make sure that all of the breathing is measured through the mouth with no air escaping through your nose.

PFT measurements

A pulmonary function test is a test measuring the volume and flow of air in your lungs. A PFT also measures how well oxygen enters your bloodstream.

  • Volume is a question of how much air is inhaled or exhaled during normal breathing or when forcefully pushing out air.
  • The flow looks at the speed and force of exhalation and inhalation under different circumstances.
  • Diffusion measures oxygen uptake in the lungs.

To get these measurements, the respiratory therapist asks you to breathe in different ways during the test. One type of breathing includes taking a deep breath and then blowing it out forcefully. Another type of breathing for the test is to pant quickly and hold your breath for a few seconds.

Non-invasive test

Pulmonary function testing is non-invasive. While it is recommended that you not take a pulmonary function test shortly after certain types of surgery, it is generally safe and comfortable for everyone. You may be asked to take an inhaler during testing to determine if respiratory medications are useful for you.

MANA’s Registered Respiratory Therapists provide PFTs in the Pulmonary Function Box at the MANA Respiratory Lab on the second floor of Fayetteville Diagnostic Clinic