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Why do I Need a Spirometry Test?

If your doctor has recommended you have a spirometry test, you’re probably wondering why you need one and what kind of test it is.

A spirometry test is among a group of breathing tests known as pulmonary function tests. This group of lung tests tell doctors how well your lungs are working. Spirometry measures how much air you breathe in and how much air you breathe out. It also measures how fast you can empty your lungs of air. Doctors use spirometry to help diagnose certain lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. The test can also help doctors evaluate the severity of your lung disease and how well you’re responding to treatment.

How Should I Prepare for a Spirometry Test?

Many times, a spirometry test can be performed at your doctor’s office or an outpatient clinic. You’ll most likely be given a list of instructions before your test to help you prepare. In general, you may see some of the following on your list of instructions:

  • Bring a copy of your medications, including their dosage, frequency and time last taken.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing that won’t inhibit your ability to take a deep breath.
  • Avoid heavy meals before your test that may impact your breathing.
  • Don’t smoke or do heavy exercise at least 6 hours before your test.
  • Refrain from drinking caffeine or alcohol the day of the test.
  • Ask your doctor if you should avoid taking breathing medication prior to your test.

Prior to the Test

A trained respiratory technician will most likely be the one performing your test. Once you arrive to the test site, the technician will explain the test and ask if you have any questions. Be sure to let the technician know if you have any questions related to the test, or if you’re not feeling your best that day. If you are feeling poorly, your technician may suggest rescheduling your test because illness may negatively impact your test results.

During the Test

spirometry test, what is a spirometry testSpirometry tests are usually administered sitting down. If you feel you can breathe better standing up, be sure to let your technician know. You’ll be given a hand-held spirometer device that has a mouthpiece on one end into which you’ll breathe during the test. Your nostrils will be clipped with a nosepiece to ensure no air leaks from your nose. It’s important to note that, although the test is usually painless, it does require a significant effort on your part to complete.

During the maneuver, you’ll be asked to inhale as deeply as you can, seal your lips around the mouthpiece and forcefully exhale as quickly and as hard as you can. You will perform this maneuver at least 3 times. Your doctor may also request that you inhale a bronchodilator medication prior to the test, so she can measure the effectiveness of this type of medication on your breathing.

Once the test is complete, test results are analyzed and then given to your doctor. You should receive your results at your follow-up appointment when you’ll have a chance to ask questions. If you don’t understand what the test results mean, it’s important that you speak up and let your doctor know. You shouldn’t leave the doctor’s office until you are satisfied with her explanation.

Are There any Risks Involved?

With the exception of mild shortness of breath or dizziness from performing the spirometry maneuver, spirometry is a relatively safe test and rarely causes any severe breathing problems. Please note: if you’ve recently had a heart attack or suffer from another heart condition, you shouldn’t perform the test.

For more information about spirometry testing, talk to your primary care provider.


Mayo Clinic. Spirometry: Overview. August 17, 2017.

9 thoughts on “Why do I Need a Spirometry Test?”

  1. Avatar Rena says:

    Inogen, thank you for your blog post.Really thank you! Awesome.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Thank you Rena!

  2. Avatar Fran says:

    I would like to know if Inogen would be right for me, I am presently on 4 liters. I am going for a function test on the 23rd

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Fran, An Oxygen Specialist can discuss the differences between our oxygen concentrators and can work with you to find the oxygen therapy solution right for you. Please call an Oxygen Specialist at 1-800-374-9038.

  3. Avatar bill says:

    are these pule or flow type concentrators ?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Bill, All our portable oxygen concentrators are pulse dose. However, our stationary oxygen concentrator, the Inogen At Home, is continuous flow.

  4. Avatar Duncan Fowler says:

    I have a spirometer at home and am able to take measurements as frequently as I want. I have IPF as well as COPD. What numbers should I be watching?
    My Spirometer is a NuvoAir and I was able to get a demo one

  5. Avatar Dorothy says:

    The Spirometry test showed that I have Pulmonary Hypertension. I had been going to a cardiologist for some time and could not determine why I was short of breath especially when I was going up hill or up stairs. Finally an echocardiogram showed that I might have HP ad the cardiologist sent me to a pulmonary Dr who ordered the test. With the results of some tests I was put on oxygen 24/7. To help with the changes in my life style I ordered the Inogen 3 and the Inogen stationary unit for in house use. Have been using them for 2 years now.

  6. Avatar Cynthia White says:

    When I was put on oxygen 24/7 I stared to look into other products so that I would not have to cart a cumbersome oxygen tank everywhere I went with a limited time frame for use. The Inogen One 3 gave me freedom I would otherwise not have. With the car jack and multiple batteris I am all set. I love this machine. I have owned it for two years and have only had to replace the columns once.

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