When you take each test, you will breathe through a mouthpiece into a testing device. A respiratory therapist will explain how you should breathe and coach you through the maneuver. You will perform the maneuver several times to ensure an accurate and reliable test result.
The tests together last about one hour.
Specially-trained respiratory therapists assist physicians in performing two procedures to inspect your airways and lungs: bronchoscopy and thoracoscopy.
Both procedures involve the use of a scope, which is a thin viewing tube. The tube is inserted into the body on one end and connected outside the body on the other end to a lighted viewing lens or digital camera. For bronchoscopy, a bronchoscope is inserted through the mouth or nose. For thoracoscopy, an endoscope is inserted through a small incision in the chest.
Your doctor may order a bronchoscopy to diagnose problems with your airways, lungs or lymph nodes in the chest. Bronchoscopy is used to remove an abnormal growth or foreign object in the airway, or to take tissue samples—a biopsy—to test for diseases.
The lab may use either a flexible bronchoscope or a rigid bronchoscope.
The flexible version is used more often and has several advantages. You need only local anesthesia, and insertion is more comfortable. Your doctor also can get a better view of your smallest airways because the scope is thinner and made of a material that can be maneuvered through the airway with greater ease.
Sometimes, however, the rigid version, which is made of a straight, hollow metal tube, is the better choice. It is used when bleeding in the airway could block the view or when an object that needs to be removed is particularly large. Larger tissue samples can be taken with the rigid bronchoscope. It is also used for special procedures such as widening the airway or destroying a growth using a laser.
You will receive general anesthesia when the doctor uses a rigid bronchoscope.
Your doctor may order a thorascopy to examine the lining of your lung to detect cancer cells that have spread there from another part of your body. The test is also used to remove fluid that has collected in the chest, a medical condition called pleural effusion.
When you undergo a thoracoscopy, you will receive local anesthesia and light sedation. If your doctor needs a tissue sample, an instrument will be inserted through the endoscope to retrieve it. The tissue sample is later evaluated by the hospital laboratory.
The procedure takes two to three hours. However, you must stay in the hospital for several hours, or in some cases overnight, after the thoracoscopy to recover.
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:
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.
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:
Neuromuscular diseases, such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, can weaken the muscles you need to help you breathe.
If your doctor wants to evaluate the strength of your respiratory muscles, you will come to the lab to get an assessment of your maximal respiratory pressures. The test measures the force generated by the diaphragm and chest muscles when you forcefully breathe in and out.
The lab sometimes also refers to this test as maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressure measurements.
The evaluation takes about 15 minutes.