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Research has revolutionised the lives of people with asthma

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What is spirometry?

Doctor demonstrating spirometry Spirometry is a safe, simple and painless test to determine how well your lungs work. The test is carried out using a machine called a spirometer. Spirometry is needed to diagnose and assess your lung condition so you can be given the correct treatment. Your doctor can also use the test results to find out how severe your lung condition is, and in turn accurately set your treatment goals and measure improvements or changes over time.  

Despite the importance of spirometry, recent Australian and international research has revealed that spirometry is greatly under-utilised. This is resulting in people being misdiagnosed with respiratory conditions. The under or over diagnosis of respiratory conditions can potentially affect your overall health, as unsuitable treatments may have been prescribed.

The Australian Centre for Airways disease Monitoring (ACAM) at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research recently identified that as many as 74% of people with current asthma had not had a lung function test within the previous 3 years[1].

Why is spirometry important?

A recent Canadian study found that 1 in 3 adults previously diagnosed with asthma no longer had asthma when reassessed and their lung function tested. The study also found, that the people who had asthma ruled out for them, were less likely to have had their lung function tested as part of their initial asthma diagnosis.[2]

This research shows how important lung function testing is for accurate diagnosis of asthma.

What do I need to do?

Most adults and children over 6 years of age can undertake a spirometry test. You should have a spirometry test approximately every 1-2 years or in some cases more frequently if required. If you have asthma and have not had your lung function tested in the last 1-2 years or you suspect you might have asthma, ask your doctor about spirometry.

A spirometry test can be done in your doctor’s room, or you may need to go to another clinic or hospital to have the test done. It simply depends on where the equipment is available.

To read what you need to know prior to your spirometry test, download the NPS Getting ready for Spirometry fact sheet here http://www.nps.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/325146/Getting-ready-for-spirometry.pdf

If you have been prescribed a preventer medication for asthma do not stop treatment unless doing so under guidance from a doctor. If you are worried that you have been misdiagnosed or have concerns about your symptoms, it’s very important to seek medical advice, suddenly stopping medication can increase the risk of an asthma flare-up or attack.

Want to learn more?

Talk to your doctor today about spirometry and for more information contact your local Asthma Foundations 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462)

[1] AIHW: Poulos LM, Ampon RD, Reddel HK, Hime N & Marks GB 2016. The use of lung function testing for the diagnosis and management of chronic airways disease. Cat. no. ACM 32. Canberra: AIHW.

[2] Aaron SD., et al. (2017). Reevaluation of Diagnosis in Adults With Physician-Diagnosed Asthma. JAMA. 2017;317(3):269-279. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.19627

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