How at-home spirometry testing has helped me during the pandemic

At-home spirometry testing is sometimes being used instead of PFTs at the clinic

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

Share this article:

Share article via email
banner graphic for

Doctor appointments at a cystic fibrosis (CF) clinic are a normal part of my medical routine, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t anxiety-inducing. After being weighed and getting my oxygen saturation, temperature, and heart rate read like the back of a baseball card, I begin to psych myself up for my next activity: the pulmonary function test (PFT).

The PFT is one of the best-known tests to see how well a person’s lungs work. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, PFTs measure “lung volume, capacity, rates of flow, and gas exchange.”

Speaking personally, taking a PFT feels like going into a boxing match. But instead of Tyson Fury on the other side, the battle is within and against myself. Nevertheless, it is beneficial for me. The other medical professional in the room, whether it’s a nurse, doctor, or physical therapist, is there to encourage me, like cornermen for boxers. They tell me the best and most expansive way to get the air out of my lungs.

Recommended Reading
A graphic depicting a woman on a stage with the words

‘Blow, Nicole, Blow’: My Journey With PFTs

The role of telehealth

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the world has changed, and CF patients aren’t always able to do PFT tests in person like they used to. I am one of these patients.

In the middle of the pandemic, the CF Foundation delivered more than 10,000 home spirometers, which is one type of PFT, thus providing an alternative to in-clinic PFTs. The amazing thing about spirometry tests is that they can be done on a phone. All you have to do is download an app on your phone, link your account to your doctor’s office, and the app will send your results to your doctor’s office.

While I appreciate the encouragement and coaching of my CF team, I tend to become shy and buckle under the weight of the encouragement. I get inside my head and become way too self-conscious about what I’m doing.

With the home spirometry tests, however, I feel like I’ve blossomed into my own. I do it in the privacy of my bedroom, sometimes with my dogs cheering me on. Thankfully, their version of cheering me on is by staring at me.

During my last doctor appointment, I discovered that my PFT results had increased by 12%, which was phenomenal! My wife, who came with me, and I were pleased. What’s more incredible is that my doctor told me that PFT results often drop each year as a person gets older. Somehow, I had defied the odds!

I’m not sure how my next appointment will go, and if I’m being realistic, I doubt my PFTs will increase as dramatically as they did previously. However, I am positive that the at-home tests have been beneficial to me.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Anthony Palmiero avatar

Anthony Palmiero


William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Love you too!

Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

Hiya Will! I love how you're always teaching me new things about CF (and yourself). I'm also very happy that your recent PFT results increased. I know how glad I was when I was given a great report about my recent PTF test. Let's keep on defying the odds together - we can do it! Love you, Helen

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Yes, we can! Love you too!


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.