Pulmonary Function Testing

Dr. Eko is a local leading expert in a number of key areas. As an internist and general medicine practitioner, Dr. Eko specializes in several procedures and diagnostic testing.

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Pulmonary Function Testing

A pulmonary function test is basically a way to see how well a patient’s lungs are working. The testing shows the overall capacity of the lungs as well as their volume, gas exchange and rates of flow. With this information, Dr. Eko can potentially diagnose and treat a variety of lung disorders. If a specialist is needed, a referral is made with every attempt at coordinating with that specialist to ensure ongoing communication. 

Pulmonary function testing may be performed as part of a regular physical examination or it can be used to help diagnose patients who have other issues, such as allergies, trouble breathing, respiratory infections, or chronic lung conditions such as asthma or emphysema.

There are essentially two disorders that can impact air moving in and out of the lungs. They are:

  • Restrictive. This disorder occurs when the tissue of the lungs and/or that of the chest muscles cannot expand enough. As such, there are issues with air flow, which is typically due to lower volume of air in the lungs. 
  • Obstructive. This issue occurs when airway resistance causes problems for air flowing out of the lungs. This results in a decrease in the overall flow of air. 

There are two methods by which pulmonary function tests are performed. Dr. Eko will determine the right method for the patient, dependent upon the patient’s concerns and symptoms. The two methods are:

  • Plethysmography. Tests are performed while the patient sits or stands in an air-tight box. The box resembles a telephone booth. 
  • Spirometry. A spirometer is used for this test. A spirometer is a medical device that has a mouthpiece hooked to an electronic machine.

Pulmonary Function Testing measures a number of readings including the following:

  • Minute volume. This is the amount of air that is exhaled per minute. 
  • Tidal Volume. This is the amount of air that is exhaled or inhaled during regular, normal breathing. 
  • Vital capacity. This measurement is the total volume of air that is exhaled after the patient has inhaled as much air as possible. 
  • Total lung capacity. This measurement is that of the total volume of the lungs when they are filled to their capacity. 
  • Functional residual capacity. This is the amount of air that remains in the lungs after the patient has exhaled normally. 
  • Residual volume. This is the amount of air remaining in the lungs after the patient as exhaled as much as possible.
  • Forced vital capacity. This is the amount of air that is forcefully exhaled after the patient has inhaled as much as possible. 
  • Forced expiratory volume. This measures that amount of air that is expired during the first three seconds of the forced vital capacity test. 
  • Forced expiratory flow. This measures the average flow rate during the middle half of the forced vital capacity test. 
  • Peak expiratory flow rate. This measures the fastest rate at which the patient can force air out of the lungs. 

It is crucial to work with a physical familiar with the patient when undergoing pulmonary function tests. This is because normal values for each of the measurements vary by patient. The amount of air that is inhaled and exhaled can only be compared to the average for someone of the same height, race, sex and age. If the patient has already undergone previous pulmonary function testing, new results can also be compared to previous ones. If abnormal results are found, or if testing results are different than previous testing, the patient may need additional testing performed with a specialist.

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