Pulmonary Function Test

Last Updated: October 29, 2018

Definition - What does Pulmonary Function Test mean?

A pulmonary function test (PFT) is a clinical method used to assess the relative health of the lungs by measuring distinct factors including gaseous exchange, lung volume, total lung capacity, and airflow rate. A technician can administer pulmonary function tests to check for abnormalities in breathing patterns that might suggest either an obstructive or restrictive lung disorder. Specialized equipment such as a spirometer can help gauge the physiological condition of the lungs according to baseline metrics that indicate normal breathing cycles.

WorkplaceTesting explains Pulmonary Function Test

Pulmonary function tests can be beneficial for people with certain acute or chronic symptoms attributed to asthma, emphysema, sarcoidosis, scleroderma, and other pathological conditions. Environmental circumstances also contribute to irregular homeostatic function of the lungs. The workplace often contains noxious toxins where constant exposure can have detrimental effects on the lungs, for instance, chemical factories or the coal mining industry.

Drug use can also affect the structural integrity of lung tissue, whether a substance is inhaled or enters the body via intravenous injection. Research suggests that perpetual chemical dependency has a serious effect on the lungs. In turn, the immune system fails to neutralize antigens accordingly due to repeated substance abuse. Smoking illegal substances such as cocaine or heroin, for example, can interfere with the respiration process where the interplay between oxygen absorption and carbon dioxide expulsion is compromised.

Pulmonary function tests cover multiple aspects that lend to the contraction and expansion of lung tissue proportionate to autonomous breathing cycles. For instance, healthcare providers look at variables including functional residual capacity (FRC), forced expiratory volume (FEV), forced vital capacity (FVC), residual volume, total lung capacity, and vital capacity as critical factors in making a diagnosis. Biological variables such as age, ethnicity, gender, and height are often included corresponding to medical history and lifestyle habits (i.e. smoking) for accurate results. Depending on the circumstances, pulmonary function tests can be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

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