Why is Lung Function Testing useful?

Over the past decade, pulmonary lung function testing (PFT) has gained increasing importance in veterinary patients, due to its ability both  to characterize and quantify the patient’s lung dysfunction using non-invasive techniques. This is particularly important during the early diagnosis of respiratory disease and the evaluation of treatment responses. The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine has pioneered the development of non-invasive lung function testing in animals, including horses, dogs, llamas and alpacas.

Our Lung Function Laboratory, under the leadership of Dr. Andrew Hoffman and operation by Drs. Melissa Mazan and Daniela Bedenice, is a nationally recognized center of research and clinical excellence that continues to offer advanced diagnostic and treatment modalities to animal patients with respiratory disease. It is also the only Center in New England to offer non-invasive lung function testing in veterinary patients, in order to demystify conditions which cannot be adequately diagnosed or treated using conventional diagnostic techniques. Although we use this type of testing most commonly to characterize lung dysfunction in horses with IAD, we can also use PFTs to diagnose abnormalities in breathing pattern due to a neurological or muscular disorder (for example, animals with partial respiratory muscle or diaphragmatic paralysis). Additionally, chronic inflammation of the nasal passages (rhinitis) may be diagnosed through testing of airflow movement through the upper airways. Because horses are obligate nose-breathers, nasal passage swelling poses a significant breathing problem. Surprisingly, it is very difficult to diagnose nasal swelling using endoscopy. Lung function testing, on the other hand, can differentiate whether the increased respiratory resistance (airway narrowing) is caused by the upper or lower airways and will thus establish an otherwise elusive diagnosis. Lung function testing can also be applied to many species. Although sport horses represent the majority of our patients, we have tested many foals, llamas and alpacas, dogs, cats, and even a golden eagle and elephant!


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