Tag Archive for pft

Now I’m on oxygen

me with my new nasal cannula

Things have been a bit up and down this year. I’ve had bronchitis three times, and a bad sinus infection. Of course they all make it harder to breathe. The shortness of breath has become a big issue with almost any amount of physical activity. This past week I’ve noticed my lips turning purple or blue with some regularity.

I’ve been complaining about shortness of breath and low blood-oxygen saturation for at least a year. I have felt like medical professionals haven’t been taking me seriously because my o2 sats tend to be ok while at rest. I did end up doing an exercise desaturation test back in November where I immediately dropped to 89% and stayed there for the remainder of the test. Just one percent lower, and they would have pulled out an oxygen tank.

That did prompt some more investigative work which later resulted in the discovery of diastolic heart failure and secondary pulmonary hypertension. It was assumed I would see great improvement after 4-6 months on bipap, to address the underlying severe obstructive sleep apnea, but that hasn’t been the case.

This past two weeks have been fairly bad as I am sick again. I saw my local lung doctor’s nurse practitioner who prescribed a round of doxycycline and a short prednisone burst. My other lung doctor pushed for breathing tests and a walking test, and luckily I was able to have those done the next day.

I’m not sure what the PFT results were, but they seemed pretty surprised when my oxygen levels dropped after walking down the back hallway for less than a minute. I eventually left the doctor’s office around 3pm and had an oxygen concentrator at my house by 5:30pm.

The supplemental oxygen has seemingly made a huge difference in the past 36 hours. I’m not constantly panting, I don’t feel absolutely horrible, my brain isn’t foggy, I can hold a conversation, my voice has more strength behind it, I sat outside for an hour, I’ve left the house twice on short errands, I’ve been able to do some things with my kids, etc.

I am very interested to see if they can discover the root cause for my oxygen troubles. Usually this would be associated with fibrosis or severe obstruction in the lungs. It could be heart related, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the pulmonary hypertension is involved. For now I am thankful to be breathing more easily, and am hoping to get a piece of my life back.

Lung update

I had the pleasure of performing a pulmonary function test (PFT), chilling with my lung doc and getting chest x-rays Wednesday.  A PFT can feel like running a marathon while sitting in a chair with a tube coming out of your mouth.  I’d much rather go running than do these things, but you get used to them.  At one point in my life I was having to do PFTs every few weeks and sometimes multiple times in a single doctor visit.

If you’ve never done a PFT or are going to and wonder what happens, I’ll give you the cliff notes.

  • Your weight and height should be measured
  • You sit in a chair
  • Some clips are put on your nose so you’re only breathing through your mouth
  • You’ll be asked to breathe into a tube at varying rates, take a deep breath and hold it, etc

I’ve had some doctors give me a “PFT” which consisted of me simply exhaling into a tube.  To me this just seems like a Peak Flow meter.  The important thing to remember when doing one of these is to play it cool like the Fonz.  If you’re uptight and try to fight it, you’ll just have to repeat everything.


Once you’re done there will be different numbers your doctor will go over with you.  The easiest value for me to understand is the FEV1/FVC ratio.  Based on your age, height and weight there’s be an expected ratio compared to how you actually performed.  FEV stands for forced expiratory volume and FEV1 is the most air you can breathe out in one second.  FVC stands for forced vital capacity or the most air you can exhale after inhaling as much as possible.

Like everything else, there are multiple ways to interpret this ratio, but if you’re within 80%-120% of expected, things are supposed to be normal.  The hard thing for some doctors to realize is “your normal” may have nothing to do with textbook normal.  Over the past 6 years I’ve gone from 135% to about 95%.  I’m still “normal,” but have lost 40% of my lung function and it keeps decreasing every time it’s measured.

The good news is that I am coughing less, wheezing less and hurting less when breathing.  I feel like I’ve been able to do more in the past six months than I have in the past couple years.  I can’t really say I feel good, but things aren’t nearly as bad as last fall.