Pulmonary function tests are confusing to many patients. But, as those with heart disease are usually aware of their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the importance of knowing your numbers as they apply to pulmonary function tests (PFTs) and COPD is commonly overlooked.
The National Lung Health Education Program is currently on a mission to encourage patients to be aware of their pulmonary function test results by focusing on their mantra “test your lungs; know your numbers.” Their mission also includes increasing the percentage of doctors who use spirometry in general practice, as it is currently reported that only 30% are doing so at this time.
Knowing your numbers is just another way for you to be your own patient advocate when it comes to your health. It also gives you a method of comparison to determine how well you are responding to treatment and if your disease is progressin.
Pulmonary function tests can be used for a number of reasons:
Three types of pulmonary function tests are used in the diagnosis of COPD – spirometry testing, diffusion studies and body plethysmography.
Spirometry requires the patient, after all air has been expelled, to inhale deeply. This maneuver is then followed by a rapid exhalation so that all the air is exhausted from the lungs.
Results of spirometry tests vary, but are based on predicted values of a standardized, healthy population.
COPD causes the air in the lungs to be exhaled at a slower rate and in a smaller amount compared to a normal, healthy person. The amount of air in the lungs will not be readily exhaled due to either a physical obstruction (such as with mucus production) or airway narrowing caused by chronic problem.