Why Do I Feel Short of Breath? (Part 2)

In a prior blog I talked about information to bring to your physician, as well as a preliminary test that may be done to aid in the diagnosis of the breathing problem. To continue, there are several other tests that may be done. These are often done based on the results of the physical examination, symptoms one may exhibit, as well as the findings from prior testing. Sometimes one test result will point the physician to another test, so information as to why each test is being done will need to be explained by the healthcare provider. Be sure you ask!

Lady Breathing InOther basic testing may include:

      1. X-ray of the chest. This may show fluid collection, congestion or some other abnormality. If that is the case, then more specific x-ray type studies may be done, such as a CT/CAT scan, or an MRI, both of which show 3 dimensional images of the lung in a much greater detail than an x-ray would.


      1. Laboratory studies, including sputum samples or blood work, may be ordered to see if there’s an infection or some other problem.


      1. One blood test – called an arterial blood gas or ABG – takes blood from an artery to measure the oxygen level in the blood, the acidity, carbon dioxide and many other values. Unfortunately, this may be pretty uncomfortable, because arteries are deeper under the tissue.


    1. Pulse oximetry. This test measures the saturation percentage of oxygen in the blood and is an non-invasive test that can be quickly measured with a clip on finger pulse oximeter.


If there are abnormal findings during some of the preliminary examinations, the primary care physician may refer you to a pulmonologist – a physician who specializes in diseases of the lungs – and if so, the ordering of the tests may be completed by the specialist. Again, depending on the findings, a more in-depth study may be done, called a bronchoscopy. This is done to obtain tissue samples deep within the lung, and is classified as a “procedure”, usually done on an out-patient basis for the purposes of diagnosing a problem. There is sedation that is given, which allows the testing to be done, and results are shared after the pathology studies are complete.


What experiences have you or a loved one had with testing for breathing problems? Stay tuned for more comprehensive information on various lung conditions, and remember to keep breathing easy!


Inogen One – Reliable, trusted and proven to provide Oxygen. Anytime. Anywhere.


Author: Cheryl A. Acres RN, CCM

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