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"Is spirometry needed to diagnose emphysema?"


I have smoked for 40 years and my doctor ordered this test. Can it tell me for certain that I do not have emphysema?


Emphysema is one of the major forms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); the other major form is Chronic Bronchitis. Emphysema refers to the destruction of the small airways over time, and Chronic Bronchitis refers to a cough that lasts several months each year that is associated with sputum production. COPD is a major adverse side effect of smoking, and is a cause of significant morbidity and mortality.

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People with COPD experience shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue, and they are also more prone to respiratory infections. The gold standard for diagnosing COPD is through pulmonary function testing, of which spirometry is the major component. The test involves various measurements, including the volume of air that is inhaled and exhaled with each breath and with maximum effort, and the flow of air with forced expiration. The diagnosis of COPD can be made if a certain degree of an obstructive air flow pattern is seen on this test. The severity of the COPD can be estimated based on the amount of air expelled in one second after full inspiration. If you are concerned about COPD or have further questions about pulmonary function tests, then you should talk to your primary care doctor to gain more information.

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