Emphysema - Diagnosis

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What kinds of tests and exams did you have that led to a diagnosis of emphysema?

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How is emphysema diagnosed?

After obtaining a history and physical exam, especially noting whether or not the patient is or has been a tobacco smoker, the doctor may recommend several tests.

  • Usually the first preliminary test is a chest X-ray that helps distinguish emphysema from other lung problems.
  • A computerized tomography (CT) scan may be ordered to provide the doctor with more information. This test allows the physician to see the actual makeup of the lung tissue and visualize the degree of emphysema.
  • Additional tests such as lung function spirometry tests that measure how well a person can move air in and out of their lungs is often ordered.
  • More elaborate testing determines how well gases diffuse through the lung tissue. This test is called the diffusing capacity test, and is a physiologic test of underlying emphysema in patients with obstructed airflow, as measured by spirometry. In addition, blood taken from an artery can determine how well the patient's blood is being oxygenated by the lungs, and how well carbon dioxide is being removed.
  • A non-invasive test of oxygenation is the oximeter. This is a small device usually place on a finger that measures a person's oxygen saturation and pulse.

The diagnosis of emphysema is based on the results of these tests. Often, your primary doctor will refer you to a pulmonary specialist for any additional diagnostic tests and treatments.

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Comment from: Lisa, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 22

A CT scan of my chest and pulmonary function tests were used for my diagnosis.

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