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Pulmonary function tests · chest x-ray · chest ct • pet scans

Pulmonary Function Test (PFTs)

Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) is a generic term used to indicate a battery of studies or maneuvers that may be performed using standardized equipment to measure lung function. PFTs can include simple screening spirometry, formal lung volume measurement, diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide, and arterial blood gases. These studies may collectively be referred to as a complete pulmonary function survey.

Pulmonary function tests measure how well your lungs work. These tests measure:

  • How much air you can take into your lungs
  • How much air you can blow out of your lungs and how fast you can do it
  • How well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood
  • The strength of the muscles you use for breathing

Your provider may order lung function testing to help in the diagnosis of asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and COPD. Lung function testing is also used to determine the amount of damage caused by conditions such as sarcoidosis. These tests can also be used to check how well treatments, such as asthma medications, are working for you.

Lung function tests may not show what is causing breathing problems, so your provider may order other tests, as well. Lung function tests are usually painless and rarely cause side effects. You may feel light headed for a short time, but usually not enough to interfere with your planned activities for the rest of the day.

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray does not typically require any advance preparation. Be sure to inform the technologist if you are pregnant.

Because metal and some other materials are dense and absorb X-rays and therefore interfere with the image, you will be asked to change into a gown for your chest X-ray. You will be taken into a specially designed, lead-lined room, which prevents the energy from the X-rays from penetrating the walls and exposing people nearby. Generally, chest X-rays are taken with the patient in a standing position.

You will be asked to remain as still as possible during the very short exposure time. You will likely be asked to hold your breath in order to prevent the motion created when you breathe from blurring the images. Exposures may be taken from the front and the side to provide different “views” to the doctor. After the technologist has determined that the images are technically satisfactory, you can leave. The images will be interpreted or “read” by a radiologist – a physician who has specialized training in the interpretation of images of the human body. A report of the interpretation will be sent to the provider who ordered the test. Your PMA provider will review the results of the X-ray with you via the Patient Portal, by telephone, or at your next office visit.

Routine diagnostic X-rays ordinarily produce no side effects, but repeated exposure to X-rays can cause some cell damage. Be sure to let the technologist know if you are pregnant. Although the adult body soon repairs itself from an exposure, greater damage is caused to young children and unborn fetuses.

Chest CT

Computed Tomography (CT) scans of the chest are often ordered to evaluate unexplained chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, and as a follow-up to an abnormal chest X-ray. A CT is a standard imaging tool that allows a physician to pinpoint the location of problem areas within the body before making treatment recommendations. CT imaging of the chest can image detailed information about the lungs, heart, and large blood vessels. The air in the lungs contrasts naturally with the tissue and causes abnormalities to stand out, often without the need for injection of contrast medium into a vein.

For a chest CT, you will be asked to lie on your back on a padded table that moves through the scanner. The scanner looks like a large square with an opening in the middle. Both ends of the scanner are open – you will not be enclosed. You will be able to communicate with the technologist performing the test at any time through a two-way intercom.

At first, you will hear humming, buzzing, or clicking sounds from the CT machine. The table will move in short steps through the scanner as the CT tube rotates around you. At each step, the scanner completes a separate view. The informaiton is processed by a computer and shown as images on a video screen for the technologist to view.

For a chest CT you will be asked to hold your breath for several seconds during the imaging portion of your procedure. If contrast material is injected, you may notice a warm, flushed sensation and a metallic taste in your mouth for a short time.

The CT scan itself causes no pain. Usually the scanning takes several seconds or just a few minutes to perform.  You can expect to be in the department for 15 to 60 minutes.

The images will be interpreted or “read” by a radiologist – a physician who has specialized training in the interpretation of images of the human body. A report of the interpretation will be sent to the provider who ordered the test. Your PMA provider will review the results of the X-ray with you via the Patient Portal, by telephone, or at your next office visit.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing for your CT exam. You will be asked to remove any metal in the chest area that could interfere with imaging of the area being scanned. You may be asked to change into a patient gown.

If you are having a scan that requires intravenous (IV) or oral (by mouth) contrast medium, you will be given specific instructions for preparation. It is important that you follow the instructions carefully.

Before the exam, tell your physician and the technologist if you think you may be pregnant. You will be advised about any dietary restrictions when scheduling your appointment. You should continue taking all prescribed medications with a sip of water unless specifically directed not to take one or more of your regular medications.

CT scanning does not cause any side effects. It does involve exposure to X-ray radiation, but the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.

Serious allergic reaction to the iodine-based contract medium is rare. The staff who complete the scan are well equipped and trained to deal with any treatment that may become necessary should a reaction occur.

Breastfeeding mothers should wait 24 hours after contrast injection before resuming breastfeeding.

PET Scans

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a highly sensitive scan that detects the metabolic signal of actively growing cancer cells in the body. PET and PET/CT scans are most often used to determine whether a growth is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous), to evaluate the progression of disease, and to assess the effects of clinical therapies.  A PET scan is completely painless and has no side effects.

A PET scan procedure typically lasts 2-3 hours. It begins with an injection of a tiny amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) “tracer” solution that enables evaluation of glucose metabolism (function) in the body. Once injected, you will be asked to rest in a quiet room and to avoid significant movement or talking, which may alter the localization of the tracer. This resting period lasts about an hour.

The PET scanner looks like a large doughnut. You will be asked to lie on an imaging table and positioned for as much comfort as possible. It will take about 30-45 minutes for your scan and possibly longer depending on the type of scan your physician has requested. It is very important that you do not move during your scan.

Preparation varies depending on the procedure being performed. You will be contacted before your procedure with specific instructions. Wear warm, comfortable clothing as the scanning rooms can be chilly. Do not wear jewelry, clothing with metal zippers or buttons (sweats are recommended).

Consult with your physician if it is possible you may be pregnant or if you are breastfeeding. After the procedure, drink plenty of fluids to flush the radioactive substance from your body.

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