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What is a PFT test?

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Quick Answer

PFT tests are a group of tests that measure how well the lungs supply oxygen to the body, states Healthline. PFTs, which stands for pulmonary function tests, are ordered during routine physical examinations if issues with the lungs appear, and to check lung functions before surgery.

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Full Answer

PFTs help diagnose conditions such as allergies, asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung fibrosis, emphysema, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, explains Healthline. PFTs may include spirometry to measure the amount of air inhaled and exhaled, and the plethysmography test may be used to measure the amount of gas in the lungs. Spirometry requires the patient to breathe normally into a mouthpiece or to inhale and exhale deeply or rapidly. Plethysmography requires the patient to breathe in a mouthpiece while sitting or standing in a small booth, to measure lung volume.

PFTs are typically safe, but the increased breathing rates required may cause light-headedness or fainting, warns Healthline. PFTs may cause an asthmatic episode for those with asthma, and a collapsed lung could occur in very rare cases. Individuals with a respiratory infection or heart disease should not take a pulmonary function test, and those who have recently had a heart attack or eye, chest or abdominal surgery should refrain from these tests.

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