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The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

For Patients & Families
Diagnostic Tests & Procedures

Pulmonary Function Test

What is a pulmonary function test?

Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) measure:

  1. How much air the lungs can hold
  2. How well the air moves through the airways
  3. How well the oxygen penetrates the lung tissue in order to enter the blood stream

Results of these tests provide the physician with information about how well the lungs work and how well they can provide oxygen to the vital organs.

This is a relatively simple procedure and is not uncomfortable, but for some it can be exerting.

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Patient Preparation

No special preparation is needed. However, if you are using bronchodilator medications such as Ventolin, do not use them before the test.

Inpatients will be taken to the Pulmonary Function Test lab by wheelchair. If your white blood cell count is low, you will be asked to wear a mask while out of the hospital room.

If you are an outpatient, proceed to the Pulmonary Function Test lab on your own at the scheduled appointment time.

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The Procedure - What to Expect

At the lab, you will be required to sit in a Plexiglas booth where you will be instructed to frequently blow into special equipment while a technician takes various measurements of your lung capacity. To prevent breathing through your nose, you will be given a pair of nose clips to use. There are four tests in total and the whole procedure takes about 45-60 minutes. 

For one of the tests, you will be asked to use an inhaler through which the technician will give you albuterol (Ventolin®). Ventolin is a bronchodilator often used by patients with asthma or bronchitis. It helps to “open up” the air passages in the lungs making it easier for air to flow through.

There are very few side effects to Ventolin. However, let the technician know if you have a pre-existing heart condition, are taking heart medications or you are already on bronchodilators/inhalers.

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