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Spirometry (meaning the measuring of breath) is the most common of the Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs), measuring lung function, specifically the measurement of the amount (volume) and/or speed (flow) of air that can be inhaled and exhaled. Spirometry is an important tool used for generating pneumotachograph to assessing conditions such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and COPD.
Additional recommended knowledge
The spirometry test is performed using a device called a spirometer, which comes in several different varieties. Most spirometers display the following graphs:
The most commonly used guidelines for spirometric testing and interpretation are set by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the European Respiratory Society (ERS).
The basic FVC test varies slightly depending on the equipment used.
Generally, the patient is asked to take the deepest breath they can, and then exhale into the sensor as hard as possible, for as long as possible. It is sometimes directly followed by a rapid inhalation (inspiration), in particular when assessing possible upper airway obstruction. Sometimes, the test will be preceded by a period of quiet breathing in and out from the sensor (tidal volume), or the rapid breath in (forced inspiratory part) will come before the forced exhalation.
During the test, soft nose clips may be used to prevent air escaping through the nose. Filter mouthpieces may be used to prevent the spread of microorganisms, particularly for inspiratory maneuvers.
Limitations of test
The maneuver is highly dependent on patient cooperation and effort, and is normally repeated at least three times to ensure reproducibility. Since results are dependent on patient cooperation, FEV1 and FVC can only be underestimated, never overestimated.
Due to the patient cooperation required, spirometry can only be used on children old enough to comprehend and follow the instructions given (typically about 4-5 years old), and only on patients who are able to understand and follow instructions - thus, this test is not suitable for patients who are unconscious, heavily sedated, or have limitations that would interfere with vigorous respiratory efforts. Other types of lung function tests are available for infants and unconscious persons.
Spirometry can also be part of a bronchial challenge test, used to determine bronchial hyperresponsiveness to either rigorous exercise, inhalation of cold/dry air, or with a pharmaceutical agent such as methacholine or histamine.
Sometimes, to assess the reversibility of a particular condition, a bronchodilator is administered before performing another round of tests for comparison. This is commonly referred to as a reversibility test, or a post bronchodilator test (Post BD), and is an important part in diagnosing asthma versus COPD.
Explanation of common test values in FVC tests
Note that functional residual capacity (FRC) cannot be measured via spirometry, but it can be measured with a plethysmograph.
Results are usually given in both raw data (liters, liters per second) and percent predicted - the test result as a percent of the "predicted values" for the patients of similar characteristics (height, age, sex, and sometimes race and weight). The interpretation of the results can vary depending on the physician and the source of the predicted values. Generally speaking, results nearest to 100% predicted are the most normal, and results over 80% are often considered normal. However, review by a doctor is necessary for accurate diagnosis of any individual situation.
Technologies used in spirometers
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Spirometry". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|