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7 Different Types of Pulmonary Function Tests

More than 34 million Americans are diagnosed with a chronic lung disease, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. Fortunately, today there are treatment options that can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. 

But before any treatment can be prescribed, your doctor needs to have an in-depth understanding of how your disease is affecting your lungs and your ability to breathe. That’s when pulmonary function tests can help.

With offices in Germantown,‌ ‌Maryland,‌ ‌and‌ ‌Alexandria and ‌Woodbridge,‌ ‌Virginia‌ , Medical‌ ‌Access‌ helps patients breathe better with advanced pulmonary function testing aimed at diagnosing disease and managing it effectively. In this post, our ‌team‌ reviews seven types of tests that could help you.

Lung diffusion capacity test

Lung diffusion refers to the ability of your lungs to allow oxygen to pass (diffuse) from your lungs into your bloodstream and to allow waste products (primarily carbon dioxide) from your blood into your lungs. The waste products can then be removed from your body through exhalation. A lung diffusion test measures how well your lungs perform these functions.

During the test, you breathe in oxygen and a tiny amount of a “tracer” gas. After holding your breath briefly, you exhale forcefully while a device measures how much of the tracer gas was absorbed.

Bronchial provocation test

Bronchial provocation tests are used to measure how your airways respond when introduced to a “triggering” substance that causes airway tightening in people with certain conditions. Typically, this test is used to determine if a patient has asthma. 

The test can also be used to help your doctor understand the severity of your asthma symptoms, so the proper management plan can be prescribed.

Cardiopulmonary exercise stress test (CPET)

CPET measures how well your lungs respond to exercise. During the test, you breathe through a mask while you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike. A device measures how well your lungs respond as the amount of exercise is gradually increased. This test also collects information about your heart activity during exercise.

Pulse oximetry test

Pulse oximetry is a simple test that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. The test uses a small device that’s clipped on your fingertip or earlobe. The device contains a tiny sensor designed to capture oxygen levels in your blood, called your oxygen saturation level.

Arterial blood gas test

Also called an ABG test, this simple blood test measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, as well as the acid-base level of your blood. This test evaluates how well your lungs move oxygen into your blood and move carbon dioxide out.

Fractional exhaled nitric oxide test

This test measures how much nitric oxide is exhaled with each breath. If your levels of nitric oxide are high, it could indicate a condition involving airway inflammation and swelling. In most cases, this test is used to help your doctor diagnose asthma and manage its treatment. 


Plethysmography is a test designed to measure your lung volume — specifically, how much air your lungs can hold. Your doctor might order this test if you have pain when breathing or other symptoms, like shortness of breath. Though it isn’t used to diagnose a condition, it provides information that can lead to a diagnosis or improved management of existing conditions.

Make lung health a priority

If you have any type of breathing problem or a symptom like wheezing or chronic coughing, don’t ignore it. To learn what we can do to help you protect your lungs, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Medical Access today.

7 Different Types of Pulmonary Function Tests

May 22, 2023