I recently completed a pulmonary function test at my local hospital. This test was ordered by my doctor to measure how well my lungs take in and exhale air, and how efficiently my lungs transfer oxygen into my bloodstream.
It is a noninvasive test, and I did it as an outpatient. I have this test done every six months.
I always have mixed feelings about doing this test. I’m grateful for it, because it gives me real numbers to assess my lung health and the progression of my disease. I also feel nervous about this test, because it is so exhausting. Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced when going through a pulmonary function test.
I took a few pictures while I was there to show you what it’s like. You sit in a clear, sealed box that controls how much oxygen you breathe when not using supplemental oxygen.
You breathe in and out of a mouthpiece in very specific ways, such as slowly or fast as possible. These breathing tests are done in sets of three to make sure an accurate finding is determined.
Diffusion capacity (DLCO), is another measurement during the pulmonary function test. This is measured when the patient breathes carbon monoxide for a very short time, often one breath. The difference in the amount of carbon monoxide inhaled, and the amount exhaled, gives an estimate of how quickly gas travels from the lungs to the bloodstream. This is important because the amount of oxygen in our bloodstream is a huge part of what keeps our organs and system going.
Much needed information
As you can see, having a pulmonary function test gives pulmonary fibrosis patients much-needed information. The test usually takes about an hour or more, and it’s extremely tiring for me to go through. The time to perform this test has gotten longer as my PF has progressed, because I need to rest longer and use supplemental oxygen between the tests. Several of the tests require you to breathe in as much air as possible, as quickly as possible. This makes me cough terribly, and it takes a while with little sips of water to recuperate.
I used to be able to drive to and from the test myself, but I’m no longer able to do that. I’m still able to drive to the appointment, but can’t drive home, because I’m too exhausted. I’m grateful to my husband for coming with me.
This test is hard to go through, but it’s worth the effort. It provides my doctors and me with the information we need to assess my lung health and the progression of my disease. I always ask for a copy of the preliminary test results before I leave, because I like to compare my current results with prior results.
How about you?
I hope this information is helpful to you. I’d love to hear about your experience taking a pulmonary function test. You can get more information by visiting the Johns Hopkins website.
Has your doctor made a referral for you to have a pulmonary function test? What was it like for you? How does it help you and your treatment?
Please leave a comment below, and share with those who could benefit via email or on social media. We’re in this together!
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.