If you have been referred for spirometry, it is important that you read the information below prior to your appointment and complete the pre-appointment questionnaire in advance of your appointment.

What is Spirometry?

Spirometry is a basic breathing test which measures the amount of air you can breathe in and then blow out forcefully.

How is the test performed?

The clinician performing the test (usually Healthcare Assistant – HCA) will measure your height and weight and then ask you to sit upright in a chair next to the device.

You will be asked to take a deep breath in and blow into the spirometer as hard and fast as you can until your lungs are completely empty. This routine will be repeated several times to ensure the results are consistent.

Reversibility Test

Depending on your results you may be given an inhaler which will open up your airways to their best possible capacity. The HCA will demonstrate how to use the inhaler via a spacer. You will then have the test repeated 20 minutes later to see if there is any improvement. During the 20 minute interval you will be asked to sit and wait in the main waiting area.

Will I feel any pain or discomfort?

The test is not painful. You will be encouraged to do your best and will be given time between each blow. Do let the HCA know if for any reason it is making you feel unwell, but it should not.

How long will the test take?

The initial part of the test takes roughly 20 minutes. If reversibility is then required you will have a 20 minute interval whilst the inhaler takes effect and then another 20 minutes of testing, so 60 minutes in total.

Pre-appointment questionnaire

Ensure you have completed the Spirometry Pre-Appointment Questionnaire before your appointment. It is essential we have this in advance of your appointment. You should have received a questionnaire via text or email upon booking. If you have not yet received this, please let us know so we can send this to you.

How should I prepare for spirometry?

If you are already taking regular inhalers or medication for your breathing, please bring them to your appointment but we ask that you do not use them prior to your appointment if possible for the specified withholding times stated below:

Medication Withholding times
Relievers SABA
Salbutamol, Terbutaline
4-6 hours
Relievers SAMA
6 hours
Preventers LABA
Salmeterol, Formoterol, Seretide, Symbicort, Fostair
24 hours
Preventers Ultra LABA
Onbrez, Relvar, Anoro, Striverdi
36 hours
Preventers LAMA
Spriva, Incruse, Eklira, Braltus, Tioropium
36-48 hours
Long action oral bronchodilators
Theophylline tablets
24 hours

If you feel breathless and need to use any of these inhalers within the times above please inform the HCA at the start of your appointment.

Other Instructions

  • Please do take all of your other medications as normal.
  • Please do bring any inhalers you have to the appointment.
  • Please do not smoke in the 24 hours before the test.
  • Please do not drink alcohol on the day of the test.
  • Please do not have caffeine e.g tea/coffee in the 4 hours before the test.
  • Please avoid eating a large meal 2 hours before the test.
  • Please avoid vigorous exercise in the last 30 minutes.
  • Please wear non-restrictive, comfortable clothing.

For your comfort please empty your bladder just before your appointment.

If on the date of your test you have a chest infection please ring the surgery to cancel and rebook the appointment when you have been well for at least 6 weeks. A chest infection and/or oral steroids will affect your test and give invalid results.

What are the benefits of having spirometry?

The results of the test will greatly benefit your doctor when diagnosing problems with your breathing or when monitoring an existing respiratory condition.

What are the risks involved?

The procedure is performed frequently at the surgery and is very low risk. However, because the test requires MAXIMUM EFFORT it is important to ensure that it is suitable for you. If you have any of the following, please inform the technician prior to starting the test.

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • An ear infection
  • A heart attack or stroke
  • A collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
  • Uncontrolled angina
  • Coughed up blood recently and the cause is unknown
  • Any chest, abdominal or cerebral aneurysms
  • Any operations (including chest, abdominal or eye surgery

You may feel light-headed after each attempt at the test but this should only last a few seconds. Occasionally some patients feel shaky after they have had the inhaler, this is also normal and should only last for a short time.

Rarer complications include fainting due to the forced nature of the test and nausea

What can I expect after the test and when can I resume normal activities?

After the test and follow up appointment with doctor or nurse is over, you can go home and resume your normal activities straight away. You should not experience any lasting effects from the test. You should resume taking your inhalers as normal.

When do I get the results?

The HCA performing the test will not be able to give you any results at the appointment. You will be asked to make a follow up appointment with the doctor that referred you.