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Learning Objectives

  • The student will be able to identify the static and dynamic pulmonary function tests (PFTs) commonly performed to establish obstructive and/or restrictive patterns.

  • The student will be able to describe the operating principle of a whole-body plethysmograph and the measurements obtained from such an apparatus.

  • The student will be able to explain the use of carbon monoxide to estimate pulmonary diffusing capacity and diseases in which diffusion is altered.

This chapter examines the many practical applications of pulmonary function testing (PFT) for evaluating lung function and disease progression in individual patients, as well as identifying broader public health concerns across populations. The full range of PFT procedures can assess airway resistance, functional residual capacity (FRC) and residual volume, pulmonary diffusing capacity, arterial blood gases (ABGs), exercise capacity, and even energy expenditure. While spirometry was introduced in Chaps. 4 and 6, the more detailed descriptions here include specific diagnostic criteria for grading the severities of obstructive and restrictive lung disease types, as developed by the American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society (ATS/ERS) (Table 16.1).

Table 16.1Primary reasons for pulmonary function testing


Spirometry is non-invasive, dynamic pulmonary function testing that indirectly assesses airway resistance, notably in medium-sized bronchi. Among the lung volumes estimated by spirometry to distinguish obstructive and restrictive ...

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