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
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
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
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
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.