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If you have symptoms of COPD and a history of exposure to lung irritants — especially cigarette smoke — your doctor may recommend these tests:
- Pulmonary function tests. Spirometry is the most common lung function test. During this test, you'll be asked to blow into a large tube connected to a spirometer. This machine measures how much air your lungs can hold and how fast you can blow the air out of your lungs. Spirometry can detect COPD even before you have symptoms of the disease. It can also be used to track the progression of disease and to monitor how well treatment is working.
- Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray can show emphysema — one of the main causes of COPD. An X-ray can also rule out other lung problems or heart failure.
- Arterial blood gas analysis. This blood test measures how well your lungs are bringing oxygen into your blood and removing carbon dioxide.
- Sputum examination. Analysis of the cells in your sputum can help identify the cause of your lung problems and help rule out some lung cancers.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan is an X-ray technique that produces more-detailed images of your internal organs than those produced by conventional X-rays. A CT scan of your lungs can help detect emphysema and help determine if you might benefit from surgery for COPD.