What are Pulmonary Function Tests ?

Lung function test
Lung function test. Getty Images/Science Photo Library/Brand X Pictures

Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are a group of tests that measure how well a person’s lungs are working and can help determine disease progression by tracking changes in lung function over time. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation recommends that people with cystic fibrosis (CF) have PFTs done at least four times per year. A complete PFT series includes:

  • Spirometry – Measures the amount and speed of air flow
  • Plethysmography or Helium dilution - Measures how much air is in the lungs
  • Diffusion tests and arterial blood gases - Measure how well the lungs are able to exchange gases with the blood.

Not every test is included every time PFT’s are done. Spirometry, which is the easiest test to do and can often be done in the doctor’s office, is almost always included.

Chandrasekhar, A. 2006 “Pulmonary Function Test Basics”. Loyola University Chicago School of Medicine. 2008 September 25

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