Pulmonary Function Test (Spirometry)
Spirometry is the most basic and most frequently performed test to measure lung function; the ability to move air into and out of the lungs. Using an instrument called a spirometer, the test is performed while the patient breathes in and out as quickly as possible into a measurement device. Specific measurements from the individual's test are then compared to a standardized set of values, thus comparing the individual's lung function against a norm.
Spirometry in Occupational Medicine
Spirometry can be used in pre-placement and fit-for-duty examinations, in situations where: a) the physical demands of a job require a certain level of cardiopulmonary fitness; or b) the characteristics of respirator use can impose a significant burden on the cardiopulmonary systems. Though not required routinely under the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, spirometry may be used in the evaluation of respirator users in some situations.
Repeated spirometric evaluations can be used in medical surveillance programs when workplace exposures put workers at risk of developing occupationally related respiratory disorders. Surveillance is needed to detect the slowly developing or delayed losses of function that characterize many work-related respiratory disorders. Surveillance programs require that a baseline be established and that workers be retested periodically. These periodic spirometry tests may be mandated by OSHA regulations for employees exposed to asbestos, cadmium, coke oven emissions or cotton dust and for respirator-wearers exposed to benzene, formaldehyde or methylene chloride.