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Spirometry and COPD

March 20th, 2023
humanising healthcare


Spirometry is a commonly used diagnostic test that measures the amount of air a person can inhale and exhale and the speed at which they can do so [1]. It is often used to diagnose and monitor conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [1]. While spirometry is generally considered to be a reliable and accurate test, there are some factors that can affect its accuracy and lead to incorrect results.

Accuracy of spirometry

One of the main factors that can affect the accuracy of spirometry is the technique used by the patient during the test [2]. In order to get accurate results, patients must perform the test properly by taking a deep breath and then exhaling as hard and as fast as possible into the spirometer [2]. If the patient does not exhale fully or does not exhale quickly enough, the results of the test may be inaccurate [2]. It is important to ensure that the person being tested is properly trained on how to perform the test.

Another factor that can affect the accuracy of spirometry is the quality and condition of the spirometer itself [2]. If the spirometer is not properly calibrated or is not functioning properly, the results of the test may be inaccurate [2]. It is essential to use high-quality, well-maintained equipment that is properly calibrated [2]. Regular quality assurance checks also help ensure that the equipment is functioning properly and providing accurate results [2]. 


Additionally, the accuracy of spirometry can be affected by the presence of other medical conditions such as being overweight or having reduced lung function due to other medical conditions [3,4]. For example, patients with asthma may have difficulty performing the test properly, which can lead to inaccurate results. It is important that healthcare providers take these factors into account when interpreting the results of spirometry tests.

Overall, while spirometry is generally considered to be a reliable and accurate diagnostic tool, there are factors that can affect its accuracy. By taking steps to ensure that the test is performed properly, using high-quality equipment, and conducting regular quality assurance checks, it is possible to improve the accuracy of spirometry and empower patients to help them adhere to therapeutic interventions. This can ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients with COPD and improve their quality of life.

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[1] COPD | Disease or Condition of the Week | CDC

[2] Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder - NHS (

[3] Recommendations | Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in over 16s: diagnosis and management | Guidance | NICE

[4] Watson A, Wilkinson TMA. Digital healthcare in COPD management: a narrative review on the advantages, pitfalls, and need for further research. Ther Adv Respir Dis. 2022 Jan-Dec;16:17534666221075493. 

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