Not breathing easy? There's a test for that


body box breathing test

During the pulmonary function test, you'll be seated in a clear booth, similar to a phone booth. The respiratory therapist will give you instructions based on what he or she sees on the monitor.


“People who struggle with breathing often don’t know exactly what is wrong,” said Bill Cohagen, manager of respiratory care services at Salem Health. “With asthma, you can get air out, but not in.  With chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you can get air in, but not out.”

“If your physician tells you that you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you need to be tested to find out if it is mild, moderate or severe and be retested at regular intervals based on severity.”

According to Cohagen, the only way to accurately diagnose asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is with a pulmonary function test, along with other diagnostics such as a chest X-ray. Often, he said, especially with children, you can’t tell if they have an allergy or asthma, and a pulmonary function test will let you know. Pulmonary function tests are also common for lung cancer and bariatric surgery patients who have restrictive lung processes. The test serves as a baseline to measure lung health.

Salem Health’s latest technology for pulmonary function tests uses body plethysmography (pleth-iz-mog-ruh-fee).

“Plethysmography is a breathing test that helps us understand how your lungs are working,” Cohagen said. “We learn how much air your lungs can hold and how much is left after you exhale.”

With plethysmography, you sit in a clear, telephone-booth shaped chamber with a nose clip and mouthpiece for breathing. The controlled environment provides more accurate data about the gases going in and out of your lungs.

“This test gives us information on how best to dial in your treatment,” Cohagen said. “It is painless, and safer and faster than other testing alternatives.”

If you have upper respiratory problems, talk with your doctor and request a referral to Salem Health for a plethysmography pulmonary function test. It is covered by most insurances. The more you know about your condition, the more accurate your treatment will be in allowing you to breathe easier.