Diagnosis

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Symptoms and history are often the first questions asked in diagnosing COPD.  Often shortness of breath has gradually progressed and can be ignored until a person is noticing it is impacting their day to day life. In addition to shortness of breath, other symptoms such as cough and sputum production may be present.  Your health care provider will also ask questions regarding family history, smoking history, occupational hazards, and history of pulmonary infections.

Diagnostic tests that aid in diagnosing COPD include:

  • Chest x-ray to look for damage to the lungs
  • Spirometry is the most reliable diagnostic test.  Multiple breathing maneuvers are performed to see how well air is passing in and out of the lungs.  Two of the most important values are FEV1 (how much air can be expelled from the lungs in one second of forced exhalation) and FVC (how much air can be expelled from the lungs in total). Many other values are also calculated which indicated the level of obstruction and if reversibility is present.
  • Pulmonary Function Testing includes spirometry, diffusion capacity (how well gases travel between the lungs and the pulmonary capillaries), and lung volumes.  This test is a more in depth version of spirometry.  Often this test is done once a COPD diagnosis has been confirmed.
  • Pulse oximetry is tested with a finger probe.  It is painless and measures oxygen saturation as a percentage.
  • Arterial Blood Gases (ABGs) are done usually after a low pulse oximetry reading or if there is concern about how well the lungs are moving oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the lungs.  An ABG is a blood test taken directly from an artery (usually in the wrist) and analyzed immediately.

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ASTHMA

The diagnosis of asthma is based on symptoms such as wheezing, cough, and shortness of breath. Also, family history of asthma and/or a history of allergies will be of interest. The next step in diagnosis is spirometry testing.  Spirometry is the gold standard in diagnosing asthma.  In spirometry multiple breathing maneuvers are performed to see how well air is passing in and out of the lungs.  Two of the most important values are FEV1 (how much air can be expelled from the lungs in one second of a forced exhalation) and FVC (how much air can be expelled from the lungs in total). Many other values are also measured or calculated which help in diagnosis and indicate reversibility.

 

Where can I go for testing?

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