Lung Function Tests
Lung function tests (also called pulmonary
function tests, or PFTs) check how well your lungs work. The tests determine
how much air your
lungs can hold, how quickly you can move air in and
out of your lungs, and how well your lungs put oxygen into and remove carbon
dioxide from your blood. The tests can diagnose lung diseases, measure the
severity of lung problems, and check to see how well treatment for a lung
disease is working.
Other tests—such as residual volume, gas
diffusion tests, body plethysmography, inhalation challenge tests, and exercise
stress tests—may also be done to determine lung function.
Spirometry is the first and most commonly done lung function
test. It measures how much and how quickly you can move air out of your lungs.
For this test, you breathe into a mouthpiece attached to a recording device
(spirometer). The information collected by the spirometer may be printed out on
a chart called a spirogram.
The more common lung function values
measured with spirometry are:
Forced vital capacity (FVC). This measures
the amount of air you can exhale with force after you inhale as deeply as
Forced expiratory volume (FEV).
This measures the amount of air you can exhale with force in one breath. The
amount of air you exhale may be measured at 1 second (FEV1), 2 seconds (FEV2),
or 3 seconds (FEV3). FEV1 divided by FVC can also be
Forced expiratory flow 25% to 75%. This measures the air flow halfway through an exhale.
Peak expiratory flow (PEF). This measures
how much air you can exhale when you try your hardest. It is usually measured at the same time as your
forced vital capacity (FVC).
Maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV). This measures the greatest amount of air you can
breathe in and out during 1 minute.
Slow vital capacity (SVC). This measures the amount of air you can slowly exhale
after you inhale as deeply as possible.
Total lung capacity (TLC). This measures the amount of air in your lungs after you
inhale as deeply as possible.
Functional residual capacity (FRC). This measures the amount of air in your lungs at the end
of a normal exhaled breath.
Residual volume (RV). This
measures the amount of air in your lungs after you have exhaled completely. It
can be done by breathing in helium or nitrogen gas and seeing how much is
Expiratory reserve volume (ERV). This
measures the difference between the amount of air in your lungs after a normal
exhale (FRC) and the amount after you exhale with force (RV).
Gas diffusion tests