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What is body plethysmography?

Body plethysmography is a simple, painless test that takes lung volume measurements. Lung volume is the amount of air you inhale and exhale. The test involves sitting in an airtight booth and blowing into a mouthpiece while a computer records measurements. Body plethysmography helps diagnose respiratory diseases with similar symptoms, including asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Body plethysmography is only one method used to diagnose and manage respiratory diseases. Discuss all your testing options with your doctor to understand which tests are best for you.  

Other procedures that may be performed

Body plethysmography is a type of pulmonary (lung) function test. Your doctor will likely recommend one or more other pulmonary function tests to diagnose and monitor your respiratory disease. Pulmonary function tests include:

  • Arterial blood gas test to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide blood levels and other factors

  • Bronchoprovocation tests to measure lung function after exposure to factors that commonly trigger asthma. This includes a methacholine challenge test to help diagnose asthma. Some bronchoprovocation tests are done at the same time as body plethysmography using the same equipment.

  • Lung diffusion capacity to measure how well oxygen moves into your blood from your lungs. Lung diffusion capacity may be done at the same time as body plethysmography using the same equipment.

  • Peak expiratory flow to measure the speed of exhaling and lung constriction. People with asthma often use this test routinely to monitor their asthma control.

  • Pulse oximetry to measure oxygen levels in the blood

  • Spirometry to measure the rate and the amount of air that you inhale and exhale. Spirometry may be done at the same time as body plethysmography using the same equipment.

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 5, 2013

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Medical References

  1. Body Plethysmography. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. http://oac.med.jhmi.edu/res_phys/Encyclopedia/BodyPleth/BodyPleth.HTML.
  2. Body Plethysmography Features & Specifications. Morgan Scientific, Inc. http://www.morgansci.com/pft-pulmonary-testing-products/pft-products-and-pulminary-testing/body-plet....
  3. Obstructive Lung Diseases. McGraw-Hill Companies. http://www.mhprofessional.com/downloads/products/0071457399/0071457399_chap40.pdf.
  4. Restrictive Lung Disease. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/restrictive-lung-disease.aspx.
  5. Restrictive Lung Disease. MedCentral Health System. http://www.medcentral.org/Main/Restrictivelungdisease.aspx.
  6. Whole-body plethysmography. RT: For Decision Makers in Respiratory Care. http://www.rtmagazine.com/all-news/15771-whole-body-plethysmography.

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