Tests for Lung Function, Airway Reactivity, Asthma & More


If you or someone you love (age five and older) is having lung problems, a physician may recommend a pulmonary function test (PFT) with Mercy Pulmonary Diagnositcs. Our pulmonary function lab offers several different types of PFTs that measure how well your lungs work, including your ability to breathe and how well your lungs send oxygen throughout the body.

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs)

PFTs are performed to diagnose and monitor different types of lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis among others. Tests times may be from 20 minutes for a simple spirometry to two hours for more extensive testing. Wear loose and comfortable fitting clothes.

Testing is performed while you sit in a chair with a clip on your nose to keep you from exhaling through the nose. It is necessary to be able to measure the whole volume of air in the lungs for accurate results. On some parts of the test, you will be asked to take very deep breaths and exhale hard and fast; other tests require rapid shallow breathing. Still other test requires holding your breath for up to ten seconds. Each of these tests may be repeated two or more times to document consistent patient effort.

In most cases the respiratory therapist will administer an aerosol breathing treatment with a medication designed to dilate the breathing passages in the lungs. After a rest period of from 10 to 30 minutes, part of the test will be repeated to check for airway reactivity.

Your doctor may send you back over time for repeat testing to monitor your progress and medications depending on how your lung function is changing. PFTs are also used to determine your ability to safely undergo anesthesia during surgery, as well as to monitor people who work in occupations where they are exposed to gases and particulates.

Reasons to Reschedule a PFT

If you have any of the following problems or conditions, you should probably reschedule your test:

  • Acute illness
  • Severe cold or cough
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infection within last three to four weeks
  • Surgery within the past month

It is ideal to avoid smoking and use shorter-acting breathing medication — such as albuterol, Proventil, ProAir, Ventolin, ipratropium bromide, Atrovent, Xopenex — six hours prior to testing.

Methacholine/Bronchial Challenge

At Mercy Pulmonary Diagnostics, we are able to test anyone from age five to adult. The exception is a test called a Methacholine/Bronchial Challenge. You must be at least 15 years of age for this test, which is used to diagnose asthma or reactive airway disease. You will inhale a medication in increasing strengths to test for airway reactivity.

Pulmonary Stress Tests

Pulmonary stress tests are used to diagnose pulmonary and cardiac fitness by using a stationary bike ergometer along with a face mask to collect inspired and expired gases to aid in the diagnoses of lung function and overall fitness level. You must also be at least 15 years of age to take a pulmonary stress test.

Six-Minute Walk

The Six-Minute Walk test is designed to aid patients in qualifying for home oxygen use. You will walk for a total of six minutes with a monitor on your finger to record the level of oxygen in the blood to make sure it stays at a safe level for the various organs to function properly.

Scheduling, Canceling and/or Rescheduling Pulmonary Testing

Your doctor will either schedule your testing prior to leaving the office or give you an order for the test. To schedule an ordered pulmonary test — or to cancel or reschedule one — please call Mercy Central Scheduling at 330-489-1300.