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If you have unexplained shortness of breath you may be referred for lung function tests which will help your doctor to assess how well your lungs are working. The Clinical and Research lead for this Service is Dr Nigel Clayton.

The Lung Function Laboratory at the North West Lung Centre was established in the 1950s and is now one of the best equipped laboratories of its kind in the country. If you have unexplained shortness of breath you may be referred for lung function tests which will help your doctor to assess how well your lungs are working. The Clinical and Research lead for this Service is Dr Nigel Clayton.

The tests we offer in the Lung Function laboratory include spirometry, lung volumes, gas transfer measurement, bronchodilator assessment, exercise testing, tests of bronchial responsiveness, fitness to fly testing, respiratory muscle strength, allergy skin testing and long-term oxygen therapy assessment. We also have one of the best equipped sleep laboratories in the UK where we can investigate and treat breathing related sleep disorders.

What is a lung function test?

Lung function tests are used to investigate your lung capacity and assess how easily air passes in and out of your lungs. The tests can also determine how efficiently your lungs take up oxygen from the air.

What will the tests involve?

Using a small mouthpiece, you will be asked to breathe in and out of one or two different machines. The procedures are very simple and painless and no more complicated than blowing out forcefully or holding your breath for a few seconds.

During the test we may ask you to take some medication in order for us to investigate the effect on your breathing. This is a common procedure and does not necessarily mean that you will be prescribed the medication. You may also have a skin test to find out if you have any allergies. We may need to take a small sample of blood from your earlobe to measure blood oxygen levels. Some patients may also need an exercise test.

The tests normally take between 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the number of tests that your doctor has requested. Part of this time may involve you waiting for any medication we administer to have its full effect.

Why might I be having these tests?

Doctors normally request lung function tests when patients are suffering from unexplained shortness of breath. If you have already been diagnosed with a chest problem the tests will tell us whether your breathing is better or worse since your last visit.

Which conditions can be assessed using lung function tests?

Lung function tests can be useful in assessing and monitoring the following conditions: Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Aspergillosis, Bronchiectasis, Sleep related breathing problems, Pneumonia, Interstitial lung disease, Lung Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis, Respiratory Muscle Disease, Occupational Lung Diseases, Pleural Disease and Pulmonary vascular disorders.

Who will conduct my tests?

All tests are performed by a team of registered Clinical Physiologists in a centre recognised for its expertise in teaching and training. If a trainee physiologist performs your tests you can be assured that they will be supervised by a highly competent member of staff.

Oxygen Service

Some patients with a lung disease such as COPD or Lung Fibrosis need home oxygen if their condition causes them to have low oxygen levels. The oxygen service assesses and reviews patients who require oxygen at home for a range of respiratory conditions. Our specialist service offers treatment and support to ensure patients can continue to live a normal life with their oxygen equipment.

Other services linked to Lung Function

The Respiratory Physiologists also work within the, Sleep Service, Non-Invasive Ventilation service, Lung Research and Cystic Fibrosis Service, where a range of similar tests are performed.

What happens following my test?

The results will be sent back to the doctor who referred you to the department on the same day of testing. You may be sent another appointment to discuss the outcome of the test results with the referring consultant or the outcome of the tests may be forwarded to your GP.


Most requests for lung function tests are made from within the Trust either from outpatient clinics or from physicians looking after inpatients. We do however accept external referrals from other trusts.


Lung Function Office – 0161 291 2524
Chief Physiologist – 0161 291 2406
Sleep Laboratory – 0161 291 2569
Oxygen Service – 0161 291 4935


The Lung Function service is located in the North West Lung Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital in the Yellow Zone near Entrance 3, off Southmoor Road, adjacent to the main hospital car park.