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Pulmonary function testing in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma

A patient has recently been diagnosed with asthma. The patient is unsure whether the medication regimen prescribed is actually helping. The physician orders pulmonary function testing. What information might testing provide that will aid in the patient's treatment regimen?

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Whenever one contemplates the use of laboratory testing to evaluate a patient's condition, it is useful to review (at least mentally) the underlying disease process and the effect sought with medication. The physician has diagnosed asthma—what is the final common mechanism of that disease no matter its cause?

Asthma is a form of obstructive pulmonary disease, i.e., the small airways are in some way reduced in caliber. In the case of asthma, bronchoconstriction is the obstructive mechanism. In other words, the airways are constricted as the means of reduced diameter, as opposed to excessive secretions partially filling the ...

Solution Summary

Asthma is a disease process resulting in bronchoconstriction and consequent reduction in bulk gas movement through the small airways. This can result in both reduced oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide elimination. Pulmonary function testing of the Forced Expiratory Volume in the first second, FEV1,is useful to assess maximal gas flow through the airways. Peak flow is also a useful measure, but requires a history of pulmonary function testing for comparison.