An Overview on Spirometer

The Spirometer is one of the well-known devices. As you know, it is a piece of medical equipment used to assess the patient’s lung capacity and functioning. Now, do you know its working principle? Can you name some applications of the same? If you are not sure about the answers to these questions, don’t worry, you are in the right place.

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What’s a Spirometer?

When a person inspires or expires, a specific volume of air moves in and out of the lungs, respectively. The apparatus that measure this volume of air is a spirometer. It finds out the lung capacity and uses it to analyse or treat lung diseases. Before going ahead let’s familiarise ourselves with few terms.

  • Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) – The measure of air that you forcefully exhale after taking a deep breath is FVC. These values are always in percentage and the normal value is greater than or equal to 80%.
  • Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV) – The amount of air that you force out of your lungs in a second is FEV. Its normal range of values is also the same as that of FVC.

Why and How to Use it?

The main application of spirometer is in Pulmonary function tests. Detecting and diagnosing lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, COPD, etc. Identifying the cause of breath shortness and analysing the contaminant effect on lungs are yet other vital use cases. Other applications include lung function testing before surgery, analysing medication effects, etc.

There isn’t any big and complex procedure but, having an idea of your role is always better. There will be a tube-like piece of equipment in which you will be asked to breathe. This tube is an accessory attachment to the spirometer. So, execute the breathing pattern in the same way as asked by the doctor or nurse. You will also have to wear the clip that they give, on your nose. Ensure that your lips seal around the tube to avoid air leakage.

The test usually lasts for 30 minutes, maximum. And mostly, you will need to execute the procedure three times or so. The final result will be the highest value out of the three outcomes. In other words, it’s more like best out of three.

Types of Spirometer

Depending on the use purpose and outcome required, the following types of spirometers are used.

Whole-body plethysmograph-

This is more of a chamber than an apparatus. Here, the patient is seated inside the chamber for creating a vacuum-like setup. The readings are taken more or less in the same way, that is, via the tube. The output is more accurate in this type of measurement, rather than the other types.


It is more like a flow sensor that converts the flow of gas into a proportional signal of differential pressure. The pressure-sensitive transducer then converts the signal into the necessary output reading format. In all other types, the patient breathes only the oxygen provided via the tube, but here they get to breathe fresh air.

Fully electronic spirometer-

Electronic spirometer marks the growth of tech in medical areas. Through the application of ultrasonic transducers, the airflow rate in a channel is analysed. Accurate measurement is one of its highlights along with the fact that it is way more hygienic. It’s so because the airflow channels are fully disposable.

Peak flow meter-

Peak flow meters are more relatable to portable spirometers but can tell only the amount of air your lungs can expel. It is mainly for keeping asthma under control.

Incentive spirometer-

Last but not least. The most well-known and commonly used type is the incentive spirometer. They are portable, hand-held devices, whose sole purpose of usage is to improve lung condition. Patients suffering from asthma, pneumonia, COPD, etc. have to use this. A doctor would recommend it for the ones who recently underwent surgery. Regular usage of incentive spirometer strengthens your lungs and lowers the chance of infection. The usage instructions are as follows.
Note: The higher the ball or piston rises, the better it is.

The final word

To conclude, a spirometer is very effective and useful equipment. One can not only diagnose and assess your lung condition, but it can also improve the functionality. From a deeper perspective, there are various types of this apparatus, the above five types are the ones that are quite common. You would easily observe them and even use them. They are safe to use and have no side effects. At times, you may feel dizzy or short of breath during the test, but it’s of no major concern. It’s pretty usual and will go away within a matter of time. They are affordable, handy and easy to use. You can easily access them through both online and offline shops.


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