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Getting Tested

Everyone at risk for COPD who has a persistent cough, sputum production, or shortness of breath, should be tested for the disease. The test for COPD is called spirometry.

Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms become severe. It is a simple, non-invasive breathing test that measures the amount of air a person can blow out of the lungs (volume) and how fast he or she can blow it out (flow). The test helps detect COPD and its severity and can also find out whether other conditions, such as asthma or heart failure, are causing the symptoms. Based on this test, your doctor or health care provider can tell if you have COPD, and if so, how severe it is. The spirometry reading can help them to determine the best course of treatment.

Spirometry

Spirometry is one of the best and most common lung function tests. The test is done with a spirometer, a machine that measures how well your lungs function, records the results, and displays them on a graph. You will be asked to take a deep breath, then blow out as hard and as fast as you can using a mouthpiece connected to the machine with tubing. The spirometer then measures the total amount exhaled, called the forced vital capacity or FVC, and how much you exhaled in the first second, called the forced expiratory volume in 1 second or FEV1. Your doctor or health care provider will read the results to assess how well your lungs are working and whether or not you have COPD.

 

Other Tests

Your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:

  • A chest x-ray or chest CT scan. These tests create pictures of the structures inside your chest, such as your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The pictures can show signs of COPD. They also may show whether another condition, such as heart failure, is causing your symptoms.
  • An arterial blood gas test. This blood test measures the oxygen level in your blood using a sample of blood taken from an artery. The results from this test can show how severe your COPD is and whether you need oxygen therapy.
 
 
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