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What is spirometry?


Spirometry is a simple, painless test that measures lung constriction and the speed of exhalation. Spirometry involves blowing into a mouthpiece while a spirometer records measurements on a graph. Doctors use spirometry to diagnose and manage diseases that affect breathing, such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). 

Spirometry is only one method of diagnosing and managing respiratory diseases. Discuss all your monitoring and testing options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.

Other procedures that may be performed

Spirometry is a type of pulmonary or 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 levels and other factors in the blood

  • Body plethysmography to determine how much air is present in your lungs when you take a deep breath and how much air is left in your lungs after you exhale as much as you can. Spirometry can be done at the same time as a body plethysmography using the same equipment.

  • Bronchoprovocation tests to measure lung function after exposure to factors that commonly trigger asthma. This includes a methacholine challenge test to help diagnose asthma.

  • Lung diffusion capacity to measure how well oxygen moves into your blood from your lungs

  • 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

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 4, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. An Approach to Interpreting Spirometry. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  2. Platinum Elite™ body plethysmograph with RTD. Medgraphics Cardiopulmonary Diagnostics.
  3. Spirometry: how to take a lung function test.European Lung Foundation YouTube video.
  4. Spirometry to measure breathing. University of Washington.

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