- Mar 30, 2007
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) makes it hard for you to breathe. Coughing up mucus is often the first sign of COPD. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are common COPDs.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Your airways branch out inside your lungs like an upside-down tree. At the end of each branch are small, balloon-like air sacs. In healthy people, both the airways and air sacs are springy and elastic. When you breathe in, each air sac fills with air like a small balloon. The balloon deflates when you exhale. In COPD, your airways and air sacs lose their shape and become floppy, like a stretched-out rubber band.
Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Breathing in other kinds of irritants, like pollution, dust or chemicals, may also cause or contribute to COPD. Quitting smoking is the best way to avoid developing COPD.
The first step in diagnosing emphysema and chronic bronchitis is a good physical evaluation. Following the evaluation may be a number of tests to evaluate your breathing and other aspects of your health. These tests may be necessary because other diseases and/or disorders can be confused with COPD.
Detailed Medical History and Physical Exam
This is an important first step in the diagnosis of COPD. A doctor will conduct a complete physical exam and ask you questions about your lifestyle including your family, your job, your habits, your hobbies, your current medications, and your symptoms.
Breathing, Exercise, and Oxygen Tests (Pulmonary Function Tests)
Pulmonary function testing measures how well you are breathing. There are different types of breathing tests that can be done during pulmonary function testing. They include spirometry, lung volumes and diffusing capacity. Spirometry can show how much air you can breathe in and out. It also shows how fast you can breathe in and out. Lung volumes can provide further information about how your lungs are functioning. Diffusing capacity can show how well your lungs move oxygen from the lungs to the blood. The results of pulmonary function testing can help your doctor find the best treatment plan for you.
This simple test, called spirometry, measures airflow into and out of the lungs. This indicates whether or not there is airway obstruction. Spirometry test results are useful in making the diagnosis of a specific lung disorder. Even more important, yearly spirometry measurements help to detect lung disease at an early stage when lifestyle changes and treatment may help forestall future problems.
Arterial Gas Testing
Arterial blood gas is a blood sample test ordered by your physician to evaluate measurements of oxygen level, carbon dioxide (effectiveness of respiration), and several other parameters. Generally, it is indicated when your physician needs to evaluate the effectiveness of your breathing.
Bronchial Provocation Test
The bronchial provocation test evaluates how sensitive the airways in your lungs are. A spirometry breathing test is done before and after you inhale a spray such as methacholine. The spirometry results are compared before and after you inhale the spray to see what changes there are in your breathing. You will be given additional information in the Pulmonary Physiology Unit (PPU) at the time of the test.
Exercise Tolerance Test
The exercise tolerance test evaluates the ability of your heart and lungs to provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the bloodstream before, during and after you exercise.
Exercise For Desaturation Test
The exercise for desaturation test evaluates your oxygen needs at rest and during exercise.
X-Rays and CT (CAT) Scans
X-rays can show irregularities or damage in the lungs caused by COPD and other chronic lung diseases.
CT or CAT Scan
A CT or CAT scan is a shortened name for computerized tomography. A CT scan takes pictures of the inside of the body. The pictures are more detailed than a typical x-ray. During a CT scan of the chest pictures are taken of cross sections or slices of the thoracic structures in your body. Thoracic structures include your lungs, heart and the bones around these areas.
A CT or CAT scan is a shortened name for computerized tomography. A CT scan takes pictures of the inside of the body. The pictures are more detailed than a typical x-ray. During a CT scan of the sinuses pictures are taken of cross sections or slices of the sinuses. The sinuses are air-filled cavities in your head. CT scans can identify problems with your sinuses. Your doctor will use this information to determine the best treatment for you.
A bronchoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the airways in the lungs. The bronchoscopy can be videotaped to look at later. Your doctor may also do a lavage, which involves putting a small amount of fluid into the airways. The fluid is then pulled out. The fluid contains cells from the airways of your lungs. A biopsy of the airway may also be done. During a biopsy a small amount of the tissue is taken from the lining of the lung. The cells and tissue can be studied closely to help determine your diagnosis and the best treatment for you/your child.
Some kinds of bacteria like to live in the mucus produced in the sinuses and airways of the lungs. A culture of this mucus can help identify an infection. Lung and/or sinus infections can complicate and/or mimic some symptoms of COPD.
Bone Scan Test
A bone scan is a test that can identify bone that is diseased or injured. Normally, bone absorbs nutrients that are the building blocks of bone formation. If bone is diseased or injured nutrients are absorbed differently. The bone scan takes pictures of this process. A bone scan can pick up on bone disease or injury that may not be seen with a traditional x-ray.
pH Probe Study
A pH probe study measures the amount of gastroesophageal reflux you/your child has. Gastroesophageal reflux is the backward flow or reflux of food and acid from the stomach into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that takes food from your mouth into your stomach. A pH probe will help identify if you have increased amounts of reflux and if it is causing you to have trouble breathing or other symptom