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What Is a Spirometry Test?

Q. My doctor has recommended that I have a spirometry test. What is it, and is it expensive?

A. Spirometry is a simple breathing test that can be performed in your doctor’s office. It measures how much air flows in and out of your lungs, and can be used to confirm whether you have asthma or another disease.

For example, breathing symptoms also can be a sign of other lung problems, such as a common cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia.

If your asthma is newly diagnosed, spirometry can help your healthcare provider decide on your treatment. If you’re already being treated, spirometry can help determine whether your medication is working.

If the test shows that your asthma is not under control, your doctor may need to change your medicine or increase your dose.

The bottom line

Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice. According to Choosing Wisely, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation and Consumer Reports, a spirometry test is a more accurate way to diagnose and manage asthma than relying on symptoms alone. And it can save money.

Generally, the test costs less than $100, but not having it can cost even more. If the test shows that you do not have asthma, you’ll save $200 to $300 a month for asthma medication.

On the other hand, if your asthma is undiagnosed and you have an attack, it might require a trip to the emergency department. The cost: $3,500 or more.

Get more information on spirometry testing at Choosing Wisely.

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