Atlantic Endocrinology New York City

The Purpose Of A Spirometry Test

A spirometry test examines the function of your lungs by measuring both how much air you can inhale and how much you can exhale.

Why is spirometry done?

At Atlantic Endocrinology & Diabetes Center a spirometry test determines if lungs are functioning at expected levels. It helps our specialist to diagnose lung and airway diseases. For example, the test can detect chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) before symptoms develop. The test can also check for pulmonary fibrosis, or scarring of the lung tissue.


Other reasons why spirometry is done:

  • To determine lung capacity
  • To measure the changes over time of chronic diseases on lung function
  • To identify early changes in lung function and in some cases to help guide treatment
  • To detect narrowing in the airways
  • To decide how likely it is that inhaled medicines may help with symptoms
  • To show whether exposure to substances has altered lung function
  • To estimate your risk of respiratory complications before undergoing surgery

What should I expect during spirometry?

Spirometry can be done in the doctor’s office or a special lung function laboratory. You can expect to go through the following during spirometry:

  • Soft clips will be placed on your nose. This helps you breathe out only through the tube attached to the spirometer.
  • You will be asked to take a deep breath in.
  • Then, you will blow into a tube connected to the spirometer. You will be asked to blow as hard and fast as you can.
  • You may also be asked to breathe in a medicine that helps to open your airways followed by blowing out into the tube again.
  • The doctor will see the test results before and after you inhaled the medicine and determine whether you may benefit from treatment with it.

You feel no pain during the test. The test is repeated three times to make sure the results are reproducible and accurate. It usually takes up to 30 minutes to complete the test. You might feel lightheaded or tired due to the effort of breathing in and out so deeply. You may also cough as a result of blowing into the tube. Those symptoms should quickly resolve after completing the test.

Conditions That Spirometry Can Diagnose

Your doctor will look at your test results to figure out what may be making it hard to breathe. Common causes include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Scars in your lungs (pulmonary fibrosis)

Spirometry Terms You Should Know

Here are some terms you will probably hear from your healthcare provider if you are doing spirometry.

FVC (forced vital capacity)

This is essentially your lung capacity – the amount of air your lungs can hold.

FEV1 (forced expiratory volume)

This is the amount of air you can release in a single second. Generally speaking, the higher the amount of air you can release, the healthier your lungs are. Low FEV ratings could indicate an inflamed airway.


Your FEV1% refers to your lung capacity as compared to other individuals of the same height, weight, age, and sex. A score of 70-80% is considered average.

What do the test results mean?

Spirometry can help doctors determine:

  • If the patient’s symptoms are caused by asthma or another process
  • If there is a blockage or narrowing in the airways
  • If treatment is working
  • If a disease is stable or getting worse
  • Level of severity of the disease
  • If lungs are lower in volume than normal which may warrant additional testing

What follow-up is necessary?

The doctor will review the test results with you. At that time, the doctor will set treatment goals and a long-term plan based on the results of the spirometer.

Benefits of Taking a Spirometry Test

Now that you know what a spirometry test is, why should you take one? Spirometry provides numerous benefits for those with chronic lung conditions. Here are just some of the benefits of taking regular spirometry tests.

Notice changes in your lung health.

Since there is currently no cure for chronic lung diseases, it is extremely important that you proactively look for changes in your lung health. Whether positive or negative, consistently measuring your lung capacity allows you to see changes as they occur. If you wait until your next doctor’s visit to see whether your lung capacity has increased, decreased, or remained stationary, you might miss something important.

Stay on top of your lung health by taking spirometry tests every day to every other day. It only takes a moment, and it can make a huge difference.

Develop an action plan with the help of your doctor.

Spirometry provides the perfect avenue for you and your physician to get on the same page. Remote monitoring of your spirometry data by the doctor provides insight into your overall condition. You and your doctor can use your scores to develop a “lung health action plan,” which details the best course of action for maintaining your health.