Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Pulmonary Function Testing Laboratory

The Pulmonary Function Testing Laboratory performs a variety of tests to aid in diagnosing and assessing the severity of lung diseases.

  • Phone: 617-726-1200

Purpose of Pulmonary Function Testing

Pulmonary function tests measure:

  • How well the lungs take in and exhale air
  • The size of the lungs
  • How efficiently the lungs transfer oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out of the blood

We compare the results of these tests with the values that are expected based on your age, race, gender and height.

Pulmonary Function Tests

The following tests are generally performed while you are at rest. In most cases, you will wear a nose clip and mouthpiece while breathing into a machine that captures relevant information.

  • Spirometry determines the maximum flows you can generate while breathing forcefully in and out. This test also assesses your response to inhaled medications that might improve lung performance
  • Methacholine challenge testing involves undergoing multiple spirometry tests after breathing in the drug methacholine. When other approaches fail to provide a definitive answer, this test may reveal whether you have asthma
  • Lung volume measures the size of the lungs
  • Single breath diffusing capacity analyzes how efficiently the lungs can transfer oxygen from the air into the blood; also known as "diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide"
  • Respiratory muscle forces testing gauges the strength of the muscles used for breathing in and for coughing
  • Arterial blood gas analysis measures the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood as well as the acidity (pH) of the blood