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Infant pulmonary function tests: an introduction
Since infants aren’t capable of breathing on demand for a test, special equipment has been created to measure their lung function. There is more preparation involved for infant PFTs than for tests in older children. The procedure is reviewed for you below, along with answers to commonly asked questions:
PFTs in older children and adults
If your child is 5 years old or older, he should be capable of performing the breathing maneuvers necessary for meaningful pulmonary function testing. These tests are performed in our Pulmonary laboratory on Farley 5.
Pulmonary function tests always include spirometry. This is a test that:
Here’s how a spirometry is performed:
Total Lung Capacity (TLCC)
Another important test is the Total Lung Capacity (TLC), which measures total amount of air your child’s lungs can hold.
This measurement is performed in a body plethysmograph, or "the box"— a clear Plexiglas booth, similar to a telephone booth. Once inside the booth, this test is similar to the spirometry: your child breathes into a tube, and again the tube attached to a computer. The computer then calculates his lung volume.
Another important test we perform measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. The simplest test is the oxygen saturation. This is a routine test in which a small red light is placed on the bed of your child’s fingernail; the light lets us measure the amount of oxygen in the blood without using a needle.
Arterial blood gas
However, to get more detailed information, we need to test his blood. This test, called an arterial blood gas, involves drawing blood from an artery in the wrist. We then measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the arterial blood to determine how well the lungs are working.
These are the most common tests performed in this lab; however, we can also perform tests to:
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”