Dr Raj Ramachandram is our lead for respiratory and spirometry and offers this service to all our member practices. Spirometry is performed by Dr Raj and his team who are all ARTP accredited.
Spirometry is a simple test used to help diagnose and monitor certain lung conditions by measuring how much air you can breathe out in one forced breath.
It’s carried out using a device called a spirometer, which is a small machine attached by a cable to a mouthpiece.
Spirometry may be performed by a nurse or doctor at your GP surgery, or it may be carried out during a short visit to a hospital or clinic.
Preparing for the test
You’ll be told about anything you need to do to prepare for the test.
If you use bronchodilator medication (medicines, usually inhaled, that help relax and widen your airways), you may need to stop using it beforehand.
You should also avoid smoking for 24 hours before the test, and avoid drinking alcohol, strenuous exercise or eating large meals for a few hours beforehand.
It’s best to wear loose, comfortable clothing on the day of the test.
What happens during a spirometry test
You’ll be seated during the test and a soft clip will be placed on your nose to stop air escaping from it.
The tester will explain what you need to do, and you may be asked to have a few practise attempts first.
When you’re ready for the test, you’ll be asked to:
- inhale fully, so your lungs are completely filled with air
- close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece
- exhale as quickly and forcefully as you can, making sure you empty your lungs fully
This will normally need to be repeated at least 3 times to ensure a reliable result.
In some cases, the test may need to be repeated around 15 minutes after taking some inhaled bronchodilator medication.
This can show if you have a lung condition that responds to these medications.
Overall, your appointment should last around 30 to 90 minutes. You’ll be able to go home soon after the tests have finished and can return to your normal activities.
Why spirometry is carried out
Spirometry can be used to help diagnose a lung condition if you have symptoms of a problem, or your doctor feels you’re at an increased risk of developing a particular lung condition.
Conditions that can be picked up and monitored using spirometry include:
- asthma – a long-term condition in which the airways become periodically inflamed (swollen) and narrowed
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a group of lung conditions where the airways become narrowed
- cystic fibrosis – a genetic condition in which the lungs and digestive system become clogged with thick, sticky mucus
- pulmonary fibrosis – scarring of the lungs
If you have already been diagnosed with one of these conditions, spirometry may be carried out to check the severity of the condition or see how you’re responding to treatment.
Spirometry is also a standard test for people who may be being considered for surgery, or to check the general health of people who have other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.