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Auckland DHB Diagnostic Spirometry

Public Service


7:30 AM to 4:00 PM.


Why have I been referred for Diagnostic Spirometry?

Your GP may refer you for a Diagnostic Spirometry Test if you have the following symptoms and risk factors:

  • over 40 years of age
  • >10 years smoking history (current or ex)
  • exertional breathlessness (more than people of a similar age)
  • persistent cough (with or without sputum)
  • history of exposure to risk factors including tobacco smoke, occupational dusts or fumes, indoor air pollutants.

These symptoms and risk factors mean that you may be at risk of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Symptoms in the early stages of COPD, such as breathlessness on exertion, are often subtle and are frequently ignored, being put them down to "getting older". If you are symptomatic and have any of the risk factors above, it is important that you get a diagnostic spirometry test early on so that your condition can be managed in the most effective way. Early intervention ultimately leads to better outcomes.

The most effective way to diagnose COPD is with a Diagnostic Spirometry Test. Some people may require more extensive lung function tests, in which case they may be referred for Pulmonary Function Testing which is held in the Respiratory Laboratories also in Greenlane Clinical Centre.


What is Diagnostic Spirometry?

A spirometry test measures how well you fill and empty your lungs of air. In certain lung conditions such as COPD, this mechanism is impaired.

COPD is classed as an 'obstructive' lung disease, in which air flow out of the lungs is obstructed by damaged airways. This is diagnosed with a spirometry test. The spirometry test will also give an indication of the severity of the disease.


What to expect

You will be asked to place a nose clip onto your nose before sealing your lips around the mouthpiece of a spirometer. You will then be asked to take a deep breath in, filling your lungs with air, before blowing out as hard and as fast as you can, until they are completely empty (this may take several seconds). You will then be asked to breathe in again.

Spirometry may make you cough or feel lightheaded. This will go away shortly after the test is finished.

You will be asked to repeat this test several times in order to ensure the best and most accurate results are recorded.

You may then be given a dose of salbutamol. This is a medication, commonly known as Ventolin, and will be given to you in the form of an inhaler. Salbutamol (or Ventolin) is from a group of medications known as bronchodilators. These work to open up the airways inside your lungs.

After 15 minutes, you will be asked to carry out the spirometry test again. This is to assess if the salbutamol has made an improvement to your lung function. A significant increase in lung function indicates that you have asthma, whereas no significant change in lung function indicates irreversible airway obstruction i.e. COPD.


How to prepare for the test

The test should take between 20 and 30 minutes to complete but please allow up to 45 minutes for the full appointment. Please wear loose fitting clothing.

In order to get accurate results from the spirometry test, it is important that inhalers are withheld on the day of the test.

As the medication in each inhaler works slightly differently, inhalers may need to be withheld for different lengths of time. The following is a guide for how long you need to withhold your inhaler for prior to the spirometry test:

  • Short acting bronchodilators/‘relievers’ e.g. Ventolin/Atrovent/Respigen/Duolin/Bricanyl:
     - withhold for 4-8 hours prior to test
  •  Long acting bronchodilators e.g. Serevent/Seretide/Oxis/Symbicort/Spiriva: 
    - withhold for 12 hours prior to test


Please take all other prescribed medications as per usual.

If you have any questions regarding the above, or about any other medications, please don’t hesitate to contact the department on the number provided.


What happens after the Diagnostic Spirometry Test?

Following the spirometry test, a report will be sent back to your GP. You will be advised to make an appointment with your GP for further review. 

If your spirometry result indicates that you may have COPD, you will be offered a place on a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programme. Your GP will confirm this. 

Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a free 8 week programme consisting of education and self management skills, alongside a structured exercise programme. Pulmonary Rehabilitation is one of the most effective ways to manage COPD.

For further information on this programme, please click onto the following link:

Auckland DHB Pulmonary Rehabilitation


7:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Mon – Fri 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Referral Expectations

Waiting times
You should expect to be seen witihin three weeks of referral for a diagnostic spirometry test.


Spirometry is a free diagnostic test to all New Zealand residents in the ADHB catchment zone.

Contact Details

Greenlane Clinical Centre

Central Auckland

Physiotherapy Outpatients Department
Greenlane Clinical Centre
Building 7, Level 1
214 Greenlane West
One Tree Hill
Auckland 1051

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Street Address

Physiotherapy Outpatients Department
Greenlane Clinical Centre
Building 7, Level 1
214 Greenlane West
One Tree Hill
Auckland 1051

Postal Address

Physiotherapy Outpatients Department
Greenlane Clinical Centre
Building 7, Level 1
214 Greenlane West
One Tree Hill
Auckland 1051

This page was last updated at 12:34PM on September 14, 2016. This information is reviewed and edited by Auckland DHB Diagnostic Spirometry.