What if I get dizzy or feel like I will pass out during spirometry testing?

Q:

What if I get dizzy or feel like I will pass out during spirometry testing?

A:

Spirometry is a common pulmonary function test (PFT) and is considered safe for most individuals. You may experience dizziness or lightheadedness during the testing process, particularly if you have an existing lung condition. If you become dizzy or feel faint during testing, you should stop the test and inform your test administrator. He or she may pause or stop the testing, depending on your individual situation. You may also be asked to rest or lie down until your dizziness has subsided. Also, you should advise your test administrator of any existing respiratory condition or lung diseases that you have prior to testing.

A spirometry test is designed to test the limits of your breathing capacity. Specifically, a spirometry test analyzes how quickly you can expel a full breath of air from your lungs. The spirometry test is conducted using a spirometer. To perform the test, you take a deep breath—filling your lungs as full as possible—then exhale into the spirometer. The spirometer measures the volume of air that you are able to exhale and how quickly you are able to empty your lungs. These results are recorded on a graph called a spirogram.

Usually, you will be asked to repeat this deep breathing and exhaling process several times to obtain the most accurate results from your test. This process of taking several deep breaths followed by exhaling forcefully can cause you to feel dizzy. You may even feel like you are going to pass out. Usually the feeling subsides after a short break from testing.

In limited circumstances, the pressure resulting from your forceful breathing during the spirometry test may cause pain or injury. If you have had recent surgery, or suffer from angina or high blood pressure, you may not be a candidate for spirometry testing. You should be asked to fill out a form indicating all of your medications, surgeries, and medical conditions prior to testing. This information is used by the test administrator and medical professionals to evaluate your fitness for spirometry testing and to ensure proper interpretation of your spirometry results.

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Written by John Hawes
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John Hawes is the CCO and co-founder at SureHire Occupational Health Testing. John graduated in 2001 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy. As a former physical therapist, John uses his knowledge of physical therapy and interest in ergonomics and biomechanics to devise fit for work testing.

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