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Respiratory Therapist/pulmonary lung function test


I have slight shortness of breath.
I did smoke for many years but quit a few years ago.
I had Ct scan which showed emphysematous changes.
Then went and had a pulmonary lung function test which showed I have above average lung function and no signs of obstructive or restrictive lung disease.
Does this mean I do not have emphysema?
Can you pass a lung function test and have symptomatic emphysema?

Hi Jim,

I usually trust the results of an imaging test such as a CT or MRI because they cannot be "tricked" for better or worse by patient effort. It is very possible to have beginning stages of COPD/Emphysema and still have normal PFT values. The important thing is not allowing COPD to advance, which you have already done by quitting. Think of COPD as something like arthritis...sometimes it's in there without you really knowing it or being truly symptomatic, it is not "curable" but it is treatable when symptoms do persist and stopping the behavior that led to the disease generally is a strong first step.  

If you do feel CHRONICALLY short-of-breath, that would be because of the way Emphysema works in the lungs. Generally, Emphysema causes the lungs to be slightly over distended, so that it is hard to feel like you can easily exhale which leads to uneasiness and shortness of breath. If you feel your symptoms are CHRONIC, I would consider requesting some breathing medication prescriptions (Spiriva and Symbicort/Advair) that can make your life much easier if they are taken regularly.

I sincerely hope this has been helpful to you.

Best of health!

Larry W, RRT

Respiratory Therapist

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Larry W. Wical, BA-RRT


I CAN answer: ALL questions and queries related to the following topics... - Oxygen - Asthma - COPD - Bronchitis - Emphysema - Pneumonia (Viral/Bacterial) - Tuberculosis (TB) - SARS - Influenza (Flu) - Vaccines - Pulmonary Embolism - Pleural Effusion - Atelectasis - Inhalation injuries (burns, chemicals, etc.) - PFTs - Cardiovascular health - Sleep Apnea - BiPap/CPAP - Ventilators ("Respirators") - Aspiration injuries - Thoracic injuries - Lung contusions - Tracheal injuries - Artificial Tracheostomy - Secretions - Prolotherapy/Regenerative Injection Therapy (RIT): A patient's experience/perspective - General health and fitness I CANNOT answer: Questions that vary too far from my primary scope of pulmonary and cardiovascular care and fitness. I promise to be open and honest about my knowledge of submitted topics, and will always openly provide my personal as well as professional feedback as it relates.


Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT, RCP) since 2005. I have worked primarily in the acute care, critical care, burn care and home care settings.

NBRC - National Board of Respiratory Care AARC - American Association of Respiratory Care

-All About Kids Magazine -The Clermont Sun -Cincy Sports & Fitness Magazine -Many online Fitness and Health blogs and "webazines"

- B.A. in Communication (1997) - A.A.S. in Respiratory Science (2005) - RRT license (state of OH, KY and IN) - Basic Life Saving (BLS) - Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) - Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS)

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Currently work in the city's largest academic/research hospital.

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