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Pulmonary Function and Exercise Lab

Led by medical director, Timothy Morris, MD, the pulmonary function and exercise lab at UC San Diego Health System offers state-of-the-art exercise and lung function testing to:

  • Diagnosis lung disease.
  • Determine oxygen needs.
  • Help patients manage breathing problems.

Conditions We Provide Testing For

We provide both pulmonary function and exercise testing for all lung diseases including:

Others who can benefit from testing include those who:

  • Are healthy and interested in evaluating their exercise capacity.
  • Have a suspected respiratory disease to help determine treatment and intervention.
  • Are about to undergo lung surgery or bone marrow transplant to determine if the planned surgical procedure is appropriate and/or identify additional underlying respiratory problems.
  • Are recovering from a lung or heart transplant.
  • Have a neuromuscular disorder (e.g., multiple sclerosis) to help monitor progress and provide assessment for possible surgery.

Doctor Referral

A doctor referral is required to schedule an appointment for pulmonary testing with one of our experts. Call 619-543-5740 for more information.

What is a Pulmonary Function Test?

A pulmonary function test is a non-invasive test used to determine a patient’s lung function and source of shortness of breath.

We use pulmonary function tests to:

  1. Assist in a pulmonary diagnosis.
  2. Monitor disease progression.
  3. Assess patients’ cardiopulmonary readiness for planned procedures or surgery.

Pulmonary function tests we perform:

  • Body plethysmography – Measures how much air you can hold in your lungs. Test is performed in a small, airtight room while you breathe against a mouthpiece.
  • Spirometry
  • DLCO test (diffusing capacity) – Assesses how well lungs exchange gases. During test you will inhale air containing a small amount of gas (e.g., carbon monoxide), hold your breath, then quickly breathe out. The amount of gas absorbed during the breath is measured through the gas exhaled.
  • Maximum inspiratory/expiratory pressures – Determines respiratory muscle weakness by measuring the amount of pressure applied by your inspiratory and expiratory muscles.
  • Helium dilution FRC determination – This technique measures all the air in the lung that goes through the gas exchange. Wearing noseclips, you’ll breathe normally into a mouthpiece, and then slowly blow out until you’re empty. After repeating this a few times, you’ll rest for five to ten minutes and then repeat.
  • Shunt qualification
  • High altitude simulation testing: Used for people with a lung disease who are planning travel via airplane. Helps determine if extra oxygen is needed while flying at high altitudes.
  • Bronchial provocation test: Spirometry is used before and after inhalation of a breathing spray (e.g., methacholine) to assess the sensitivity of the airways in the lungs.
  • Arterial blood gases and arterial-line placement 
  • Bronchodilator evaluations
  • Sputum induction for microbiological analysis – Helps create extra moisture in the airways in the lungs so patients can cough up secretions more easily. Generally performed in a negative pressure space.

What is a Pulmonary Exercise Test?

Pulmonary exercise tests allow the physician to evaluate lungs and heart under conditions of increased metabolic demand.

Predicting the Course of COPD

Pulmonary exercise testing is helpful in predicting the course of disease and long-term survival in people with COPD.

Our exercise tests measure your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing patterns
  • Heart rate (and rhythm)
  • Carbon dioxide and oxygen levels
  • Overall physical condition

When might a pulmonary exercise test be done?

Physicians order pulmonary exercise tests for patients who are easily short of breath. This can help you and your physician understand why you become short of breath, how much exercise you can handle, if you should oxygen when exercising, and how your body responds to physical activity.

Patient performing pulmonary exercise test.

We offer three different exercise tests (in order of intensity):

  1. Six-minute walks: Simple patient-paced test to assess functional capacity.
  2. Rest and exercise test: Mild treadmill exercise at selected speeds to determine patient's oxygen needs with everyday exertion.
  3. Incremental exercise test: Treadmill speed is increased in small increments to determine a patient's maximal exercise capacity while monitoring inspired and expired CO2 and O2 gases.

How hard will I need to exercise?

In order to provide accurate data, you should perform each exercise test to the best of your abilities.

Appointments & Referrals

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Lab Location

Hillcrest

La Jolla

Meet Our Specialists

Medical Director

Clinical Manager

  • Bonnie Crabb

At the Forefront of New Discoveries

Our pulmonary function and exercise lab acts as the testing laboratory for clinical research for innovative new therapies for pulmonary disease. At any time our lab may be involved in as many as ten active projects.