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    Pulmonary Diagnostic Testing

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    What is Pulmonary Diagnostic Testing?

    Pulmonary diagnostic testing is a group of breathing tests that tells doctors how well your lungs work. A licensed Respiratory Care Practitioner does these tests. During the tests, you may be asked to inhale medicine that enlarges your airways to see if there is a difference before and after the medication.

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    Why are These Tests Important?

    These tests can help show if there are any problems with the way you breathe. Also, these tests can help show the cause of shortness of breath, and may help confirm lung disease such as asthma or emphysema.

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    How Do I Prepare for the Tests?

    • Please arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled test time to register.


    • Bring your questionnaire with you to your appointment.


    • All cellular phones must be turned off while in the test rooms due to the sensitivity of the equipment.
    Note: Please call to reschedule your tests if you have had a cold or respiratory illness a week before your test date. This will affect the test results.

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    What Can I Expect During the Tests?

    There are several tests you may have. The most common tests are: Spirometry, Gas Diffusion and Plethysmography.

    • Spirometry: usually done first. This test shows how quickly your lungs move air in and out and how much air they can move in and out.


    • Gas diffusion: is a test that shows how well oxygen and other gases cross your lung's air sacs each minute. For this test, a small finger prick is done to collect a few drops of blood.
      Note: Blood collection is not usually done for children unless ordered by your doctor.


    • Plethysmography: is a test that measures pressure and air flow in your lungs. For this test, you sit inside a clear "booth" and breathe through a mouthpiece while pressure and air flow measurements are collected.
    Other common tests include:

    • Exercise testing: This test shows how your body responds to exercise. During this test both your heart and breathes are monitored. If you are scheduled for this test, you should wear comfortable clothing (like sweat pants or shorts) and walking or jogging shoes. Please feel free to bring a change of clothes.


    • Arterial Blood Gases (ABGs): ABGs can show how well your lungs are getting oxygen into your blood. For this test, a sample of blood is drawn from an artery, usually in the wrist area.

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    How Do I Care for Myself at Home After the Tests?

    • You may drive after these tests.


    • You may return to work after these tests.


    • You may resume all your normal activities after you leave the Pulmonary Lab. There are no restrictions on what you eat (your diet) or your activity level.
    Note: If you were given a medicine called "Albuterol" during your tests, you may feel nervous or jittery. This lasts about 15 – 60 minutes until the medicine wears off.

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    How Do I Get My Results?

    Results of your tests are sent to your doctor within 5-7 business days. No results will be available on the day of the tests.

    Note: This handout is also available in Chinese, Russian, and Spanish.



    Produced by the Center for Patient and Community Education in association with the staff and physicians at California Pacific Medical Center. Date: 4/06


    Funded by: A generous donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Ciocca Foundation.

    Note: This information is not meant to replace any information or personal medical advice which you get directly from your doctor(s). If you have any questions about this information, such as the risks or benefits of the treatment listed, please ask your doctor(s).

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