Lung function tests look at how well your lungs work. The tests usually take around an hour and may include some of the tests described here.
Routine lung function tests
Routine lung function tests include spirometry, lung volumes and gas transfer.
Spirometry is a test that shows how well you breathe in and out. The device that is used to make the measurements is called a spirometer. We will ask you to breathe in fully and to blow out as hard and fast as you can into the mouthpiece of the spirometer. You may have to repeat this a number of times.
Measuring lung volumes (the total size of your lungs) can give us more detailed results. This test involves sitting inside a glass box with a clip on your nose to make sure that no air escapes from your nose. We will ask you to breathe into a mouthpiece similar to that of the spirometer. The test is not painful and we will be able to talk to you while it takes place.
This test measures the amount of oxygen that passes from your lungs into your blood. We will ask you to breathe in a harmless gas through a mouthpiece. Once your lungs are full, we will ask you to hold your breath for about 10 seconds and then breathe out the gas. The gas will be tested to see how much oxygen comes from your lungs.
Other tests you may have
We may need to carry out more tests to find out as much as possible about your lungs. Other tests may include:
We may ask you to give a blood sample from your finger and/or your earlobe. This is not painful, but may feel a little uncomfortable.
The exercise test lets us look at your breathing and heart rate during exercise. We will ask you to walk on a treadmill (a running machine often seen in gyms) while you breathe through a special mouthpiece. It is a good idea to wear comfortable, flat shoes as this will make it easier to walk on the treadmill.
So we can monitor your heart rate during the test, we will place small sticky patches on your chest. Please wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes so it is easier to attach the patches.
If we need to carry out any tests not described here, we will discuss them with you first.
Lung disease covers a range of conditions, including asthma, bronchitis and sarcoidosis, and what may be the causes of them.
Structural heart disease is an umbrella term for a number of defects which affect the valves and chambers of the heart and the aorta.
Sarcoidosis, also known as sarcoid, is generally described as an inflammatory condition of unknown cause which can affect various parts of the body and can occur at all ages.
Occupational lung disease covers a broad group of conditions caused by the inhalation of dusts, chemicals, or proteins.
Bronchiectasis is a disease affecting the walls of the 'bronchi' – the tubes that carry air through the lungs.
Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. There is no cure for asthma but in most sufferers, available treatments keep their symptoms under control.
The Trust offers a wide range of allergy services for adults of all ages. This includes specialist services for patients with difficult to manage allergies.
This booklet gives general information on some of the lung function tests available to see how well your lungs work:
Your lung function tests - Royal Brompton Hospital - December 2015 (PDF, 353KB)
Find out more about the lung function unit.