Health Surveillance - Spiro Lung testing

07th June 2017

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 is carried out using a device called a spirometer, which is a small machine attached by a cable to a mouthpiece.
Spirometry is carried out if the employee is exposed to dust, chemicals, gases or anything that they must wear a face mask for.

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
  • Preparing for the test


You’ll be told about anything you need to do to prepare for the test.
If you use bronchodilator medication (medicines, usually inhaled, that help relax and widen your airways), you may need to stop using it beforehand.
You should also avoid smoking for 24 hours before the test, and avoid drinking alcohol, strenuous exercise or eating large meals for a few hours beforehand.

What happens during a spirometry test?

You’ll be seated during the test and the Occupational Health Technician or Advisor will explain what you need to. When you’re ready for the test, you’ll be asked to:

  • Inhale fully, so your lungs are filled with air
  • Close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece
  • Exhale as quickly and forcefully as you can, making sure you empty your lungs fully and blowing into the mouthpiece for as long as you can

This will normally need to be repeated at least three times to ensure a reliable result, with a break in-between to check that the individual is feeling well.
A spirometer measures the amount of air you can breathe out in one second and the total volume of air you can exhale in one forced breath. These measurements will be compared to a normal result for someone of your age, height and sex, which will help show if your lungs aren’t working properly.
At the end of the test, the Technician or Advisor will confirm the results to the patient.
The measurements will also show whether any problem with your lungs is “obstructive”, “restrictive”, or a combination of the two.

What do these mean?

An obstructive airways disease is where your ability to breathe out quickly is affected by narrowing of the airways, but the amount of air you can hold in your lungs is normal – such as in asthma or COPD.
A restrictive lung disease is where the amount of air you can breathe in is reduced because your lungs are unable to fully expand – such as in pulmonary fibrosis.
Any results that show an obstruction or restriction, we refer the individual to their GP.

If you want to find out more about what we do or to arrange spirometry testing for your employees, contact us today.

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