If you’ve been experiencing shortness of breath or have been wheezing or coughing, your doctor may suggest a breathing test called spirometry.

What’s Spirometry?

A spirometry test helps diagnose conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It also checks if certain lung conditions have improved or worsened throughout treatment and evaluates lung function before surgery.
Spirometry is one of the most common pulmonary function tests (PFTs). It measures how much air you can take in (inhale) and how quickly you can breathe it out (exhale). In this test, you’ll take a deep breath from a mouthpiece and then blow out the air as fast as you can into a tube connected to a machine called a spirometer.
The test frequently involves inhaling medications called bronchodilators, which are designed to open up your airways. Spirometry results taken before and after the medication help your physician decide if bronchodilators are right for you. 

How to Prepare for the Test

On the day of your test, it’s important to:

  • Avoid smoking or other exposure to carbon monoxide (a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning gas, wood, charcoal, propane or other fuel)

  • Wear loose clothing that will allow you to expand your chest (no tight belt or vest)

  • Avoid having a large meal two hours prior to your test

Your appointment may be rescheduled if you haven’t prepared according to these criteria.
Call us ahead of time if you:

  • Have an inability to follow instructions*

  • Have had a heart attack in the last month

  • Have chest or abdominal pain

  • Have excessive pain while using a mouthpiece

  • Have stress incontinence, or an unintentional loss of urine during movement or activity

  • Have had recent eye surgery (1 week to 6 months, depending on surgery)

  • Have had recent brain surgery or an injury (3 to 6 weeks)

  • Have had a collapsed lung (2 weeks)

  • Are spitting up blood


*If a patient is unable to follow instructions due to a confused state, young age or dementia, then a parent, caregiver or guardian may call on their behalf.

Medications to Withhold Before Your Appointment

We will let you know before your appointment if your test involves inhaling a bronchodilator. If it does, do not take any of the following medications during the window of time outlined before your appointment:                                                                                                

  • Short-acting beta-agonists (e.g. albuterol, salbutamol): 4-6 hours

  • Ipratropium (Atrovent): 6 hours

  • Long-acting beta-agonists (e.g. formoterol, salmeterol): 12 hours

  • Ultra long-acting agents (e.g. tiotropium, indacaterol, vilanterol): 24 hours

Download a detailed list of medications to avoid taking before your appointment and additional information on your test procedure.

If you have any questions, please call us at (559) 459-3947.