What do Spirometry Test Results Tell You

Your FVC may be low right now. Should you care? What about your PEFR? Is it normal for someone of your height, weight, gender, and age? These acronyms may look like a bowl of alphabet soup but if you smoke, have asthma, or suffer from symptoms associated with COPD, or any other ailment which makes breathing difficult, you should know what spirometry test results look like and how they are used to help you stay healthy.

Each year, more than 12 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD and over 120,000 die from this complicated disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. This alarming statistic has led to the development of sophisticated medical devices designed to quickly assess breathing function and give an early warning to those who may suffer from diminished breathing function.

Spirometry: A Valuable Assessment Tool for Continued Health

You may have seen a spirometry test on television, or even had one yourself. It’s the assessment that calls for a patient to blow into a spirometer to measure how well your respiratory system is functioning. A simple test only takes a few minutes, but the spirometry test results provide information about your health that can change your life.

Once a very basic test of volume and force, the spirometer has become far more sophisticated in its ability to measure various aspects of your breathing function to meet the increase in people diagnosed with COPD and other breathing ailments. One examination can yield a mountain of data for your care provider to collect, analyze, and use to create a treatment plan for those in need.

The results are important. To the inexperienced, they can be difficult to understand without a glossary explaining the terms and abbreviations used.

Terminology Used in Spirometry Test Results

  • FVC-Forced Vital Capacity – How much air you breathe out after your deepest breath.
  • FEV1-Forced Expiratory Volume (One Second) – How much air you exhale in the first second of the test.
  • FEV-Forced Expiratory Volume – How much air you exhale in the first three seconds of the test.
  • MVV-Maximum Voluntary Ventilation – The amount of air you inhale and exhale during the first minute of the test.
  • MV-Minute Volume – How much air you exhale in one minute.
  • VT-Tidal Volume – How much air you inhale or exhale during normal breathing
  • PEFR-Peak Expiratory Flow Rate – How fast you can exhale compared to established standards.
  • VC-Vital Capacity – How much air you can exhale after taking your deepest breath.
  • TLC-Total Lung Capacity – How much air is in your lungs after inhaling deeply.
  • FRC-Functional Residual Capacity – How much air remains in your lungs after a breath.
  • FEF-Forced Expiratory Flow – The volume and flow of air as you exhale.

Although every category is important, a few can be especially useful when attempting to establish the general quality of your lung function.

Your forced vital capacity (FVC) is a good benchmark to use to determine if you are within normal limits. Your forced expiratory volume (FEV1/FEV) is another key indicator of respiratory health. If both values are within the normal range, you are most likely not suffering from a chronic breathing condition.

Values below the expected average range make further analysis necessary. If your results are less than 70% of what was anticipated based on your age, weight, height, gender, and race, it is possible that you are suffering from an obstructive disease such as COPD.

Spirometer test results can look intimidating, but they are very simple to read once you understand the terminology. Spirometers have become more sophisticated as they are improved to meet the increase in people with obstructive diseases and take advantage of the research being done to address the problem. If you suspect you are not breathing as well as you should be, take a spirometer test. It is fast, painless, and could change your life.

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