COVID-19: Click here for what to expect at ChristianaCare during COVID-19


COVID-19: Click here for what to expect at ChristianaCare during COVID-19

Pulmonary Function Lab

Exercise Tests

Exercise tests help your doctor to:

  • Evaluate shortness of breath when you exert yourself.
  • Evaluate your endurance level.
  • Determine your cardiopulmonary fitness.
  • Compare your oxygen levels when you rest and when you exercise.

Our lab performs several types of exercise tests.

Supplemental oxygen evaluation

Oxygen helps your body to function. Most people get enough from the air they breathe. But some lung and heart diseases can affect your body’s ability to turn this oxygen into the energy that organs and tissues need to function properly.

If your body is not getting enough oxygen from the air, your doctor may ask you to use supplemental oxygen. To determine if you need it and how much, your doctor may order two tests:

Oxygen desaturation study: A respiratory therapist clips an electronic device called a pulse oximeter to your finger, which measures how much oxygen is in your blood. Measurements are taken when you are at rest and when you are exerting yourself on a treadmill or stationary bike, or walking in a hallway. If the amount of oxygen in your blood is low, you may need supplemental oxygen. This test takes about 30 minutes.

Oxygen titration study: If you already use supplemental oxygen, your doctor may order this test to determine if you need to adjust the amount you use. Pulse oximeter readings are taken at rest and during exertion to pinpoint how much supplemental oxygen you need to maintain the appropriate oxygen saturation level in your bloodstream. This test takes about 30 minutes.

Exercise capacity evaluation

If heart or lung disease leaves you feeling breathless, your doctor may want you to begin a pulmonary rehabilitation program.

Before you begin rehabilitation, your doctor needs to know your exercise capacity—how much exertion your body can handle. To make this determination, the doctor may order you to take a six-minute walk test.

This test requires you to walk as far as you can up and down a hallway for six minutes. A respiratory therapist will ask you to rate your ability to breathe and level of fatigue on a scale of 1 to 10 during and after the test. The therapist also will measure your heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure and other indicators of your respiratory health.

Your doctor will use the results to assess your current endurance level before you start rehabilitation. The doctor likely will ask you to repeat the test several weeks or months later to determine how rehabilitation is affecting your health.

You might also take the walk test on a regular basis to help the doctor monitor your condition.

The test takes about 30 minutes.

Cardiac and pulmonary function evaluation

A cardiopulmonary exercise test evaluates how your heart, lungs and muscles respond to exercise.

Your doctor may order this test for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Diagnosing heart, lung and circulatory diseases.
  • Assessing your readiness for surgery.
  • Developing an exercise prescription for your pulmonary rehabilitation program.

Before you begin the exercise portion of the test, the respiratory therapist will measure your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation, record an electrocardiogram and take blood from your artery.

Our lab typically uses a stationary bike during the exercise portion of the test. As you pedal the bike, you will encounter increasing amounts of resistance. The respiratory therapist will monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation. An electrocardiogram is recorded throughout the test. You must continue to pedal until you feel as if you can pedal no more. When you reach your peak exercise point, the therapist will draw blood from your artery again.

After the blood draw, the exercise portion of the test is over. However, you will continue to pedal with very low resistance for several more minutes to allow your muscles to properly cool down.

In some situations, you will use a treadmill instead of a bike.

This test takes about two hours.

Please wear appropriate attire for the test. This includes:

  • Shoes suitable for pedaling an exercise bike or walking.
  • Shorts or pants.
  • A shirt, blouse or top that buttons or zips in the front (so the respiratory therapist can apply the electrocardiogram leads to your chest and adjust them while you are exercising).


Pulmonary Function Laboratory
Christiana Hospital, Room 1571
4755 Ogletown-Stanton Road
Newark, DE 19718 directions
7:30 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday through Friday
Wilmington Hospital, Room 1156
501 W. 14th St.
Wilmington, DE 19801 directions
7:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday