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Spirometry is a basic breathing test which measures the amount of air you breathe in and out and the force you use. We will measure your height and weight and ask some basic questions. We will ask you to be seated for the test, where you will need to hold equipment and breathe into a machine hard and fast until you can breathe out no longer. This will need to be repeated at least 3 times. 

You will then need to do a similar test with a very forceful breath. We will explain it all fully, so you understand what to do.


Reversibility Test – 35-minute appointment

Depending upon the results and the reason for your referral, you may then need to be given a bronchodilator (normally salbutamol (blue inhaler)). We will need to wait for 15 minutes for this to work effectively, and then repeat the tests.

Fractional exhaled Nitric Oxide – FeNO

The clinician may also offer you a test called FeNO, this is a simple blowing test usually taking around a minute to complete, to determine inflammation in your airways.

In preparation for this test, we ask the following: avoid alcohol 24 hours before the test, avoid smoking 12 hours before the test.

Avoid the following foods in the 12 hours before the test: rocket, spinach, lettuce, radish, beetroot, Chinese cabbage, turnips, cabbage, green beans, leek, spring onion, cucumber, carrot, potato, garlic, sweet pepper, green pepper.

Day of the test 1 hour before avoid: eating, drinking, smoking and exercise.


Please bring with you: A bottle of water, any inhalers you use and your aero chamber if you have one. If you have never been prescribed a salbutamol inhaler, please get in touch with your GP to issue one as you will need it for this appointment.


The test is not painful, although some people do not find it comfortable. Please tell us at any point if you are feeling unwell.


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 if possible, for the time specified below:

  • Relievers – Salbutamol / Terbutaline - 4-8 hours

  • Short acting anticholinergics – Atrovent - 6 hours

  • Long acting relievers – Salmeterol / Formoterol / Seretide / Symbicort / Fostair / Relvar -12 hours  

  • Long-acting anticholinergics – Spriva / Incruse / Eklira / Anoro / Braltus / Tiotropium - 24 hours

  • Long-acting oral bronchodilators – theophylline tablet - 24 hours

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


Other Instructions:

  • Please do take all 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.

If on the date of your test you have a chest infection, please ring your GP surgery to cancel. The respiratory team will contact you to rearrange 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 G.P / Practice Nurse when diagnosing problems with your breathing or when monitoring an existing respiratory condition.

What are the risks involved?

The procedure 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 nurse 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 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 nurse may be able to discuss your results with you after the test, alternatively the results will be sent to your GP and will be available within 14 days.


What if I have concerns/queries before the test?

Please contact your usual GP surgery and they will forward any queries on to the Community Respiratory Team.

If you cannot attend, please contact the PCN respiratory team on 01305 234090.

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