Pulmonary Function Tests and COPD

When it comes to leading causes of U.S. deaths, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) occupies third place.  It is also a major cause of disability and has no cure.  Physicians rely on pulmonary function tests to make a diagnosis of COPD.  They also use these tests to monitor how the disorder progresses during future patient visits.

Overview of COPD

This lung disease is linked to an unusual inflammatory response and obstructed airflow, particularly when a patient exhales.  It typically occurs in individuals who are at least 35 years old.

The most common signs of COPD are breathing difficulty, coughing, wheezing, and producing sputum.  The causes of airway obstruction are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.  Tests to determine a diagnosis of COPD are available from a specialist in pulmonology in Las Vegas.

Experts estimate that smoking cigarettes is the cause of approximately 80 percent of COPD cases.  Other potential culprits are certain genetic deficiencies and exposure to pollutants such as fumes and dust.  Treatments include medications, oxygen therapy, lifestyle changes, pulmonary rehabilitation, and surgery.

Pulmonary Function Tests

The primary method doctors use to diagnose COPD and monitor a patient’s condition is the use of pulmonary function tests.  The standard test upon which most physicians rely is spirometry.

This test measures both the volume and the force of air as an individual exhales.  It is particularly helpful in identifying early-stage COPD.  It is also useful for screening smokers or individuals with a family history of specific genetic deficiencies.

Spirometry has standardized results, which makes it easy to compare successive tests to see how the patient is responding to treatment.  Specialists consider it painless, reliable, and effective.

During this test, the patient remains seated and inhales and exhales with force into a mouthpiece.  The test then calibrates the force of the air.  Doctors determine two values:

  • Forced Vital Capacity (FVC):  the maximum air the individual was capable of exhaling with force.  This is a marker of lung elasticity and size, as well as how effectively air passages can open and shut.
  • Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second (FEV1):  the largest volume of air an individual can exhale after fully inhaling.  Most COPD patients experience a decline over time.

Other tools to diagnose and monitor COPD include:

  • Chest X-rays
  • CT scans
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Evaluating carbon monoxide diffusing capacity
  • Measuring nitric oxide in exhaled breath
  • Analysis of arterial blood gas

pulmonolgy Las Vegas

pulmonology Las Vegas

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