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Spirometry, or lung function testing, determines if lungs are functioning at expected levels. It helps to diagnose lung and airway diseases. The test is not painful.

How to Access

Spirometry tests are done for many reasons, including disease diagnosis and response to treatment. For example, the test can detect chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) before symptoms develop.

The test can also check for pulmonary fibrosis, or scarring of the lung tissue. Other reasons why spirometry is done:

• To determine lung capacity
• To measure the changes over time of chronic diseases on lung function
• To identify early changes in lung function and in some cases to help guide treatment
• To detect narrowing in the airways
• To decide how likely it is that inhaled medicines may help with symptoms
• To show whether exposure to substances has altered lung function
• To estimate your risk of respiratory complications before undergoing surgery

How to Prepare

Day of spirometry testing

  1. Wear loose-fitting clothing for the test
  2. Do not eat a large meal 2 hours before
  3. Don’t do any heavy exercising 30 minutes before the test
  4. Avoid smoking for at least 1 hour before the test

If you are on any of the following breathing medications, you may be asked not to take your breathing medicines for a short time before the test:

  • Avoid taking your short acting inhalers 6 hours before the test (Ventolin, Salbutamol, Bricanyl, Atrovent)
  • Avoid taking your long acting beta agonists 24 hours before the test (Serevent, Oxeze, Advair, Symbicort, Breo, Zenhale)
  • Avoid taking your long acting muscarinic antagonist 48 hours before the test (Spiriva, Ultibro, Incruse, Seebri, Turdoza, Anoro, Duaklir, Inspioloto)

This will help you breathe into the tube more comfortably and make your results more accurate.

To Follow COVID-19 Infection Control requirements:

• Wear a mask
• Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 : Screening Questions

  • Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
    Fever, NEW or worsening cough, difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • Are you experiencing any of these UNEXPLAINED symptoms?
    Fatigue/malaise, chills, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, runny nose, nasal congestion, digestive symptoms (including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), decrease of loss of taste/smell, sore muscles, conjunctivitis (pink eye), headache
  • Have you been in close contact* (without personal protective equipment) at home or in the community,  OUTSIDE OF YOUR WORK, with someone who is SYMPTOMATIC and/or being tested/awaiting results of COVID-19?
    A close contact includes someone you live with and a sick person that you spent more than 15 minutes with outside of work, without any protection.
  • Have you been in close contact (without personal protective equipment) at home or in the community,  OUTSIDE OF YOUR WORK, with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19 within the last 14 days?
  • Have you travelled outside of Canada within the past 14 days?

If response to ALL of the screening questions is NO, then COVID Screen is negative.
If response to ANY of the screening questions is YES, then COVID Screen is positive.

If you screen positive for symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact our clinic at 613-564-3950.

Original document developed by Cleveland Clinic.
Ministry of Health COVID-19 Patient Screening Guidance Document. https://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/2019_patient_screening_guidance.pdf
What to Expect

What should I expect during spirometry?

Spirometry can be done in the doctor’s office or a special lung function laboratory. You can expect to go through the following during spirometry:

• Soft clips will be placed on your nose. This helps you breathe out only through the tube attached to the spirometer.
• You will be asked to take a deep breath in.
• Then, you will blow into a tube connected to the spirometer. You will be asked to blow as hard and fast as you can.
• You may also be asked to breathe in a medicine that helps to open your airways followed by blowing out into the tube again.
• The doctor will see the test results before and after you inhale the medicine.

You will feel no pain during the test. The test is repeated three times to make sure the results are reproducible and accurate. It usually takes up to 30 minutes to complete the test. You might feel lightheaded or tired due to the effort of breathing in and out so deeply. You may also cough as a result of blowing into the tube. Those symptoms should quickly resolve after completing the test.

What should I expect after spirometry?

After the test, you can restart any medicines that your doctor told you to stop taking. You can also return to normal activities. Your doctor will advise you as to when the results will be ready to discuss.

What do the test results mean?

Spirometry can help doctors determine:
•If symptoms are caused by asthma or another process
• If there is a blockage or narrowing in the airways
• If treatment is working
• If a disease is stable or getting worse
• Level of severity of the disease
• If lungs are lower in volume than normal which may warrant additional testing

What follow-up is necessary?

The doctor will review the test results with you. At that time, the doctor will set treatment goals and a long-term plan based on the results of the spirometer.


RAMQ Patients

There is a fee for spirometry testing for Quebec residents as RAMQ does not cover the cost of the test. Refer to Fees page on the website for more info about RAMQ billing.

Operated by Ontario Partners in Health
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