What are pulmonary function tests?

Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are tests that measure how much air the lungs can hold or how much air flows in and out of the lungs. PFTs can help doctors diagnose lung conditions, check how well the lungs respond to medications or check how much the lungs are affected by a certain illness.

What are the different types of PFTs?

There are many types of PFTs. The PFTs your child has depends on their symptoms and medical history. Learn the different types of PFTs here.

How long does a PFT take?

Every PFT test is different. Some PFTs take a few minutes. Others can take anywhere from 12-20 minutes. The care team can tell you which PFTs your child will have and how long each one will take.

How can I prepare my child for a PFT?

Here is how you can prepare your child for a PFT:

  • If your child takes inhaled bronchodilators, do not take them 4 hours before the tests. Your child can take their other medications as usual. This includes albuterol solution, ProAir® multidose inhalers, levalbuterol (also called Xopenex®) solution or multi-dose inhaler and Combivent® solution or multi-dose inhalers.
  • Ask the care team how to explain the PFTs in a way that is appropriate for your child’s developmental stage and in a way they can understand.

When will I get the results back from the PFT?

There are many types of PFTs. The PFTs your child has depends on their symptoms and medical history. See the back of this handout for more information on the different types of PFTs.

Rev. 10/2018. Reviewed by the MGHfC Family Advisory Council. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.