Why Spirometry Testing Is So Important

Spirometry testing is one of the best tools for identifying airway obstruction and diagnosing a range of lung problems. It’s safe, it’s simple, and it’s fast, yet we’re not using this test nearly enough. So, what is spirometry testing and why do we need it?

What is spirometry?

Put simply, a spirometry test is used to assess how well your lungs function by measuring how much air you inhale as well as how much and how quickly you exhale.

Spirometry is used to diagnose asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions that affect breathing. It may also be used periodically to monitor lung function and to determine whether a treatment for a chronic lung condition is helping you breathe better.

Spirometry testing is useful for determining: 1) if a person has lung disease; 2) what type it is; 3) whether a person is getting better or worse; and 4) how impaired a person’s health is.

Through routine spirometry, lung diseases can often be diagnosed in the early stages when treatment is most effective.

Who benefits the most from regular spirometry testing?

There are a few types of people who benefit most from spirometry.

Occupational testing

Some individuals, such as construction workers, mine workers, firefighters, and other emergency personnel, risk exposure to toxic fumes through their line of work.

For example, research shows that emergency personnel on the scene at the World Trade Centre attack suffered smoke inhalation, asbestos exposure, and exposure to other airborne contaminants.

Spirometry testing allows doctors and other health professionals to measure and monitor the effect /damage caused by these pollutants. Conducting a spirometry test, allows for preventative measure to be put in place to ensure the health of the working individual and help researchers develop more effective respiratory equipment to protect workers at risk.

Asthma sufferers

Spirometry is the most reliable method to measure and diagnose asthma. It is also the best way to assess an asthma sufferers’ lung function and manage their condition, according to the National Asthma Council of Australia.

COPD patients

Since spirometry is so effective at detecting airflow limitations and blockages, the test helps doctors treat COPD and ensure patients enjoy the best possible quality of life. Doctors can reassess patients regularly to check their condition isn’t worsening.

Anyone with a breathing condition or any who is regularly exposure to toxic fumes or chemicals as part of their job role can benefit from spirometry.

What you can expect

The procedure is very simple. It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t take long to complete the test. This is what you can expect:

  • You will start by sitting down and breathing in a tube attached to a spirometer
  • A clip may be placed over your nose to keep your nostrils shut
  • You will breathe in deeply, then breathe out as hard as you can for at least a few seconds

You’ll repeat the breathing part of the test a few times to achieve a statistically significant set of results – normally three attempts is standard protocol.

Make sure you follow the doctor or nurse’s specific instructions or the test can take longer and always ask questions if there is anything that you are unsure about.

It’s also important to stay relaxed during the test so that your breathing is steady. You should always let a doctor or nurse know if the test makes you feel dizzy, breathless, or lightheaded.

Why spirometry is such a vital tool

There are many benefits of conducting regular spirometry tests:

  • The test makes it easier for health professionals to diagnose patients accurately. This is vital since a delayed or wrong diagnosis can result in complications and deterioration, for example, misdiagnosing COPD as asthma offers prompt diagnoses which reduce hospital admissions
  • It promotes proper safeguarding against occupational diseases, as it helps medical professionals identify risk factors and treat symptoms early
  • It helps clinicians and patients draw up long-term management plans to improve quality of life and effectively treat and manage symptoms

Spirometry testing is an essential part of New Zealand healthcare, especially for people who suffer from long-term breathing or lung conditions. It’s reliable, quick, convenient and most importantly, it can save lives. Contact us to learn more.