Doctors may use exercise testing to evaluate people with a possible lung disorder. These tests are different from exercise stress tests Stress Testing Stressing the heart (by exercise or by use of stimulant drugs to make the heart beat faster and more forcibly) can help identify coronary artery disease. In coronary artery disease, blood flow... read more done to diagnose heart disorders. The two most common forms of exercise testing are the 6-minute walk test and full cardiopulmonary exercise testing.
(See also Medical History and Physical Examination for Lung Disorders Medical History and Physical Examination for Lung Disorders A doctor first asks the person about symptoms. Chest tightness or pain, shortness of breath (dyspnea) either at rest or during exertion, cough, coughing up of sputum or blood (hemoptysis), and... read more .)
This simple test measures the maximal distance that people can walk at their own pace in 6 minutes on a flat surface. The test assesses the person's overall function but, if the person's exercise capacity is reduced, does not tell which of the individual organs and systems (that is, the heart, lungs, muscles and bones, or other organs and systems) is the limiting factor. The test results can be affected by the person's effort. This test is used before lung transplantation Lung and Heart-Lung Transplantation Lung transplantation is the surgical removal of a healthy lung or part of a lung from a living person and then its transfer into someone whose lungs no longer function. Heart-lung transplantation... read more and lung volume reduction surgery Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is persistent narrowing (blocking, or obstruction) of the airways occurring with emphysema, chronic obstructive bronchitis, or both disorders. Cigarette... read more , to monitor response to treatments and pulmonary rehabilitation, and to predict the risk of disability or death in people with heart and lung disorders.
This computerized test analyzes heart and lung function and provides information, such as how much air flows through the lungs, how much carbon dioxide is being produced, and how well the lungs are getting oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide from it. The test is done while the person is at rest and while exercising on a treadmill or bicycle ergometer; the person wears several different types of monitors. The intensity of the exercise is increased gradually until symptoms prevent further exercise.
Cardiopulmonary exercise testing primarily determines whether a person's capacity to exercise is normal or reduced and if it is reduced, whether the reduction is because of heart and/or lung problems or deconditioning. The test detects problems at an earlier stage than would tests that are less comprehensive or done only at rest.
Doctors can also use cardiopulmonary exercise testing to monitor a person's response to treatment and guide exercise in pulmonary rehabilitation programs Overview of Pulmonary Rehabilitation Pulmonary rehabilitation is the use of exercise, education, and behavioral intervention to improve how people with chronic lung disease function in daily life and to enhance their quality of... read more .