March 3, 2023

The Risk of Viral Infection During Pulmonary Function Testing

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The Risk of Viral Infection During Pulmonary Function Testing

PFTs (pulmonary function tests), also known as lung function tests, are important, noninvasive tests that show how well a person’s lungs are working. The tests measure lung volume and capacity, as well as rates of flow and gas exchange. This information can help a healthcare provider diagnose and determine a patient’s treatment for certain lung disorders. 

Who uses PFTs? Various companies use them because their indoor air quality may create health risks for their workers. Some individuals have them as part of their annual physical exam. But others have existing breathing troubles and look to PFTs to provide information for a diagnosis. For these reasons, PFTs are critical tools in assessing lung health.

For all the good they do, there is one negative. By not stressing the importance of indoor air quality, pulmonary lung tests can potentially make people sick.

The Test

There are a variety of methods for performing a PFT. Two common methods are spirometry (a device with a mouthpiece attached to a small electronic machine), and plethysmography (a test performed in an air-tight box that looks like a square phone booth)

The oldest and most common test is called spirometry. During this test, a patient will wear nose clips to ensure they breathe through their mouth, not their nose. They will put their lips around a mouthpiece, which is connected to a spirometer, and will take deep breaths in and out or blow out as hard and as fast as they can. Less common but gaining in popularity is plethysmography. For this lung test, a patient sits in a clear, airtight plastic box for about five minutes, breathing into a mouthpiece similar to the spirometer. As the person exhales and inhales through their mouth, a sensor measures any air pressure changes by assessing the airflow and pressure in the patient’s mouth.

The Health Risk

Some patients require a lung test because they have an injury or an obstructed airway. Others have chronic ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, cancer, or other non-transmissible lung problems. But some patients are ill and contagious and may spread germs to their healthcare provider during testing through insufficient indoor air quality management.

According to a National Library of Medicine pub med abstract, while performing these tests, patients need to perform varied breathing maneuvers such as tidal breathing, forced expiratory maneuvers, as well as deep inspiratory and expiratory maneuvers. Some patients cough into the test device while performing the above maneuvers either due to an underlying infection or bronchospasm. This increases the risk of transmitting aerosolized bacterial infections from one person to another via testing instruments. 

The European Respiratory Society (ERS) underscores this: “Lung function tests (LFTs) often generate aerosols in the form of droplets due to patients coughing and testing often requires the generation of high minute ventilation and flow rates. LFTs, therefore, pose a considerable risk for the spread of infection to individuals and surrounding surfaces within and around the test areas even in asymptomatic patients.”

Worker Protection From Aerosolized Bacteria

The best indoor air quality management practices for healthcare providers are the same whether in a hospital or doctor’s office. Routine cleaning and disinfecting protocols such as proper hand washing and cleaning of surfaces are vital in preventing the spread of germs. Barrier methods such as the wearing of facemasks and medical gloves are also successful in avoiding contagion transmission. But the most effective means of preventing the passing of viruses from patient to caregiver is adding air purification to the mix. Clean air is a powerful tool for removing toxins from a person’s breathing space.

Eliminating Germs with Air Cleaners To reduce risk in a healthcare setting from aerosolized bacteria, experts recommend the multi-layered approach to achieve a safe and healthy IAQ (indoor air quality). This includes indoor air filtration. Air purifying products such as our S-987-UCA2 model have proven effective in removing even the smallest particles, keeping both patients and workers safe from inhaling airborne contaminants and other aerosolized bacteria. The ULPA filter included with this system is 99.99% effective at removing contaminants down to 0.12 microns in size, including a variety of VOCs, particulate matter, and pathogens.

Customer Testimonial

Your system works like a charm. No technicians have caught Covid or any respiratory illness using this setup. It captures a cough very well. A+ performance.  – Dr. Jay Hammett

At Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc., we protect our healthcare customers by providing them with high-quality products and indoor air quality management and expertise. Contact us today for a free estimate from one of our clean air specialists.

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