The Complete Guide to Using a Spirometer Usage, Readings and Results
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Spirometry is the most common form of test for lung infections and breathing problems. Visit our post to learn more about pocket Spirometer Usage, Readings, and Results.
A spirometry test can help uncover various lung conditions as well as common chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, for short. The test can also measure the severity of existing problems such as asthma, giving doctors the ability to take the right course of action through treatment.
If you think you have an underlying and undiagnosed lung condition, a spirometry test is something you should have carried out.
But what is involved during a test? What is actually measured? What preparation is required? And what do the results mean?
These are the questions we hear most often, so we thought we might as well answer them all in one go.
What does a Spirometer Test cover?
Spirometry is the most common form of test for lung infections and breathing problems as the equipment used targets the lungs specifically as a patient breathes.
The kind of problems a spirometer test could uncover include;
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
COPD is a term used to describe bronchitis, emphysema or both, which are usually caused by smoking. The symptoms include regular coughing and being out of breath regularly things which can be resolved or at least lessened by calling it quits on the cigarettes.
Using an inhaler to lessen the effects of bronchitis or emphysema is also common.
However, if the problem is severe, you may have to resort to using steroids, antibiotics mucus thinning medicines or oxygen. The bottom line? Stop smoking…
Asthma is a common condition which affects the airways with common symptoms including; wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Many people are born with Asthma though it can be brought on by, you guessed it, smoking…
For some people, the issue doesn’t cause them too many problems, however, for others it can be so severe that a trip to the emergency room may sometimes be required.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis is a severe disease which damages the miniscule air sacs which help transfer oxygen into the blood from the lungs.
The Alveoli become scarred as a result of having IPF and unfortunately, the problem gets worse with time and there is not a lot that is known about the cause (though smoking won’t help, can you tell we want you to quit if you smoke?)
The only ‘cure’ is lung transplantation which is a major operation if it is offered.
Cystic Fibrosis is a hereditary disease which mainly affects the lungs and pancreas, though it can affect other organs depending on the individual.
Unfortunately, problems usually begin in childhood as symptoms such as; persistent coughing, wheezing chest infections and general ill health arise early for sufferers.
However, if you are lucky enough not to have been affected as severely, a spirometer test could yet uncover the issue.
What happens during a spirometer test?
First things first, there are no needles, so relax.
Your General Practitioner will take your weight and height before the test itself and it’s likely that they’ll run through a number of questions about your general lifestyle such as; ‘Do you smoke?’
Once more, we hope that is a no…
The spirometry test is so called due to the fact that the machine used to carry the procedure out is named a spirometer.
The small device has a mouthpiece upon which you will need to place your lips and blow into as hard as you can until your lungs are completely empty.
If you’ve ever been pulled over by the police and asked to complete a breathalyzer test, you’ll know the drill.
The machine will only need a few seconds to make its analysis, however, it is likely that you will be asked to repeat the process a few times so that the results are accurate.
Is there any danger in having a spirometry test?
Spirometry tests carry very little risk as they are not intrusive and all, however, you should advise your doctor if you have any of the following;
- Unstable angina
- Recent history of a heart attack or stroke
- Blood appearing in coughing fits
What do you need to do to prepare for a spirometer test?
After arranging a test with your local doctor, you will receive a communication detailing what you need to do.
This will include the following advise along with other key information.
- Don’t use a bronchodilator inhaler for several preceding hours before the spirometer test
- Don’t drink alcohol, have a large meal or carry out vigorous exercise before the test
- Don’t smoke 24 hours before the test
What does a Pocket Spirometer measure?
Now that you understand what will happen during a test, we’ll explain a little more about the science.
When you blow into the pocket spirometer, a measurement of the forced expiratory volume (FEV1) over the space of a single second will be taken. Usually, a person will be able to blow out the majority of air from within their lungs in a single second, and we don’t doubt that you’re going to try this yourself now. Effectively, the power of your exhalation is being measured.
The machine will also measure the total volume of air that you can push out of your lungs which is officially called the Forced vital capacity (FVC).
Once the two measurements have been made, the FEV1 will be divided by the FVC to deliver a final result.
What Pocket Spirometer measurements mean
Luckily, there are only four distinctive and simple measurement which the spirometer delivers.
- An obstructive pattern
- A restrictive pattern
- A combined and restrictive pattern
Your doctor will explain what your reading means as there are a number of permutations within each result.
Your next steps
Depending upon your results, you will receive a professional diagnosis and schedule of treatment if required.
However, in the event of inconclusive or severe findings, it is likely that you will be asked to return to a specialist who will carry out a more comprehensive test.
The spirometer test is a quick and efficient way of determining whether or not you have lung problems, however, it cannot deliver specific results or distinguish between one disease and another, so you should not make any immediate judgements based upon the results of the test.
It is only once a number of further tests are carried out that you will be given a full and detailed diagnosis if required.