What is spirometry?

Spirometry is a simple test used to help diagnose and monitor certain lung conditions by measuring how much air you can breathe out in one forced breath. It’s carried out using a device called a spirometer, which is a small machine attached by a cable to a mouthpiece.

Spirometry may be performed by a nurse or doctor at your GP surgery, or it may be carried out during a short visit to a hospital or clinic.

Why spirometry is carried out?

Spirometry can be used to help diagnose a lung condition if you have symptoms of a problem, or your doctor feels you’re at an increased risk of developing a particular lung condition.

For example, it may be recommended if you have a persistent cough or breathlessness, or if you’re over 35 and smoke.

Conditions that can be picked up and monitored using spirometry include:

  • Asthma – a long-term condition in which the airways become periodically inflamed (swollen) and narrowed.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a group of lung conditions where the airways become narrowed.

  • Cystic fibrosis – a genetic condition in which the lungs and digestive system become clogged with thick, sticky mucus.

  • Pulmonary fibrosis – scarring of the lungs.

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