Pulmonary function testing allows objective measurements for a variety of functions of the lung. This testing can help identify specific lung diseases, show response to medications, and even identify portions of the lung affected by lung disease. Pulmonary function testing can be particularly useful in identifying causes for patient’s shortness of breath.
Spirometry is the most common pulmonary function testing used in physician’s offices and hospitals. It involves measurement of air movement through various parts of the lung. Spirometry obtained before and after a rapid acting asthma mediation can determine how responsive one’s lung disease is to medication. This test can be very helpful in identifying asthma.
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Methacholine Inhalation Challenge
Sometimes asthma cannot be readily confirmed by initial spirometry and specific “challenge tests” may be required to identify lung disease. Methacholine challenge involves a series of inhalations of methacholine (an agent that causes airways to narrow when asthma is present) with spirometry monitoring that can demonstrate the presence of asthma. Methacholine challenge is particularly useful in evaluation of chronic cough and determining severity of asthma.
An exercise challenge involves repeated measurement of lung function (usually spirometry) before and after treadmill exercise. It is useful in identifying breathing problems associated with aerobic exercise, including exercise induced asthma. Exercise challenges are also useful in evaluating individuals with exercise symptoms which are not prevented by asthma medication.
Lung Function Testing in Infants and Young Children
In infants and small children, it can be difficult to get objective measurements of lung function, as small children cannot always assist sufficiently to generate reproducible spirometry. Recently, new types of pulmonary function testing (Impulse Oscillometry and MicroRint Interrupter Technique) have been introduced that do not require the consistent maximum patient effort needed for accurate spirometry in older children and adults. To obtain data with these devices, all that is required is a brief period of quiet easy breathing. These objective measurements of lung function can be very useful in evaluating small children with chronic cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
Spirometry and impulse oscillometry are available in all of our offices and each of our board-certified allergists in our practice have expertise in performing and evaluating pulmonary function testing discussed above.