Diagnosing COPD

In order to diagnose COPD, a physician will ask about lung symptoms, take a medical history, and conduct a physical examination.

In order to determine how impaired a patient’s lungs may be, a physician may order tests such as the following:

  • Lung function tests: Lung function tests may include spirometry, lung volumes and diffusing capacity. Spirometry can show how much air you can breathe in and out. It also shows how fast you can breathe in and out. Lung volumes can provide further information about how your lungs are functioning. Diffusing capacity can show how well your lungs move oxygen from the lungs to the blood.  The results of lung function testing can help your doctor find the best treatment plan for you.
  • Finger oxygen level: This test measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  • Diagnostic imaging tests: Radiology tests such as CT scans provide physicians with detailed pictures of an individual’s lungs to determine the presence and amount of emphysema and other lung diseases.
  • Other tests: Additional tests commonly include an electrocardiogram, exercise test, and blood tests.

People with a history of cigarette smoking and especially those with COPD and emphysema are at higher risk for developing lung cancer. Mount Sinai’s Lung Cancer Screening Program offers these high risk individuals low-radiation dose CT screenings; the Lung Cancer Screening Program is integrated into the COPD Program.