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 pneumotachographs which are helpful in assessing conditions such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and COPD.
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.
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.
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.
|FVC||Forced Vital Capacity||This is the total amount of air that can forcibly be blown out after full inspiration, measured in liters.|
|FEV1||Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 Second||This is the amount of air that you can forcibly blow out in one second, measured in liters. Along with FVC it is considered one of the primary indicators of lung function.|
|FEV1 / FVC||FEV1%||This is the ratio of FEV 1 to FVC. In healthy adults this should be approximately 75 - 80%.|
|PEF||Peak Expiratory Flow||This is the speed of the air moving out of your lungs at the beginning of the expiration, measured in liters per second.|
|FEF 25-75% or 25-50%||Forced Expiratory Flow 25-75% or 25-50%||This is the average flow (or speed) of air coming out of the lung during the middle portion of the expiration (also sometimes referred to as the MMEF, for maximal mid-expiratory flow).|
|FIF 25-75% or 25-50%||Forced Inspiratory Flow 25%-75% or 25%-50%||This is similar to FEF 25%-75% or 25%-50% except the measurement is taken during inspiration.|
|FET||Forced Expiratory Time||This measures the length of the expiration in seconds.|
|SVC||Slow Vital capacity|
|TV||Tidal Volume||During the respiratory cycle, a specific volume of air is drawn into and then expired out of the lungs. This volume is tidal volume.|
|MVV||Maximum Voluntary Ventilation||A measure of the maximum amount of air that can be inhaled and exhaled in one minute, measured in liters/minute.|
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.
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