Pulmonary Testing

Pulmonary Function Testing

Pulmonary function tests, commonly known as PFTs, are a broad range of tests led by a trained pulmonary function technologist. These tests measure how well the lungs take in and exhale air and how efficiently they transfer oxygen into and remove carbon dioxide from the blood.

How should I prepare for these tests?

  • Eat and drink normally except for the final meal before your test. This should be a light meal.
  • Do not smoke.
  • If you are scheduled to undergo the Methacholine challenge only, follow the guidelines for the medications noted below. 
    • Short-acting bronchodilators such as albuterol or Combivent for eight hours
    • Long-acting bronchodilators such as Advair or Spiriva for 12 hours
    • Cromolyn sodium for eight hours
    • Liquid theophylline for 12 hours
    • Long-acting theophylline for 48 hours
  • In addition, on the day of the test, do not consume chocolate, soda, coffee or tea. Take all other medications as normal. If you have any questions, ask your doctor.

What happens during the test?

The exact procedure and duration are different for each type of test, but there are many aspects common to all PFTs.

When performing the tests, you 'll do a variety of breathing maneuvers, such as blowing, inhaling and breath-holding into a PFT machine. Your doctor uses the information from these tests, along with the results from other tests, to help identify the possible causes of your breathing difficulties or monitor the progression of your lung disease or your lungs' improvement due to treatment.

Cardiopulmonary Exercise/Stress Test

A cardiopulmonary stress test is used to evaluate and diagnose conditions affecting breathing and heart function during exercise. The test involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bicycle while collecting data through a mouthpiece and EKG.

Why might I need this test?

A cardiopulmonary stress test is used to evaluate your breathing or heart function. It can also determine the likelihood of qualifying for surgery, monitor tolerance improvements and develop safe and effective exercise regimens.

How should I prepare for the test?

You may not eat, drink or smoke for four hours prior to the test. Also, make sure not to consume caffeine after midnight. Do not apply lotions or powder to the chest area. Make sure to wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes to your appointment.

You may take your prescribed medications the morning of the test with a sip of water. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking some heart medications prior to the test. Be sure to ask your doctor how to adjust your insulin and food intake if you are diabetic. If you have any question about your medications, ask your physician.

What happens during the test?

Breathing capacities and volume tests will be performed to evaluate your breathing function before cardiopulmonary exercise testing begins.

Several EKG electrodes will be attached to your chest. In male patients, chest hair may be partially shaved to ensure better contact with the skin. The electrodes will be attached to the EKG monitor, and a blood pressure cuff will be placed around your arm. Your blood pressure, heart rate and EKG will be closely monitored during the test. A mouthpiece will be placed in your mouth with a nose clip attached to your nose. A pulse oximeter will be attached to your finger to monitor oxygen levels. Your breathing and oxygen levels will be monitored closely during testing.

You will be asked to walk on the treadmill. The speed and incline will be increased gradually every three minutes. You will walk until your age-determined target heart rate is achieved. This may take up to 15 minutes. You will then be instructed to sit while heart rate, EKG and blood pressure are monitored for 5-10 minutes. After the exercise test is over, breathing capacities and volume tests will be performed for 30 minutes to monitor breathing function.