Spirometry is a powerful tool that can be used to detect, follow, and manage patients with lung disorders.
Technology advancements have made spirometry much more reliable and relatively simple to incorporate into a routine office visit. However, interpreting spirometry results can be challenging because the quality of the test is largely dependent on patient effort and cooperation, and the interpreter's knowledge of appropriate reference values. A simplified and stepwise method is key to interpreting spirometry. The first step is determining the validity of the test. Next, the determination of an obstructive or restrictive ventilatory pattern is made. If a ventilatory pattern is identified, its severity is graded. In some patients, additional tests such as static lung volumes, diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide, and bronchodilator challenge testing are needed. The tests can further define lung processes but require more sophisticated equipment and expertise only in a pulmonary function laboratory.