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Bronchodilator Reversibility Testing

What is a bronchodilator reversibility test?

The bronchodilator reversibility test is used to determine how well your lungs are working.

This test uses a spirometer and a bronchodilator. A spirometer is a machine that measures lung function. It measures how much and how fast air is blown out or exhaled. Bronchodilators are medications that open the airways, making it easier to breathe.


Person breathing into a spirometer.
Person breathing into a spirometer.

Why might I need a bronchodilator reversibility test?

This test is often used in people who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For example, it may be done to help diagnose either condition.

How do I prepare for a bronchodilator reversibility test?

Before the test, you may be told not to take your usual bronchodilator medication. Make sure you follow the instructions exactly as given.

What happens during a bronchodilator reversibility test? 

This test is often done in the health care provider's office. The reversibility testing steps usually include the following:

1. You will be asked to take a deep breath and then blow into the mouthpiece of the spirometer as hard as you can. This is a baseline measurement. The spirometer records the results.

2. You will be given a dose of bronchodilator medication by means of an inhaler or nebulizer.

3. You will wait for about 15 minutes.

4. You will take a deep breath and then blow into the mouthpiece spirometer as hard as you can. Again, the spirometer records the results.

5. You will be asked to blow into the mouthpiece more than once to get the best reading possible.

What happens after a bronchodilator reversibility test?

Your health care provider will use information about your medical history, findings of a physical exam, and the results of this and other tests to make, confirm, or exclude a diagnosis of lung disease. The information may be used to determine the severity of your lung condition and to help determine the best treatment for you.