Pulmonary Function Test Cost

Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff

A pulmonary function test is a group of tests which will be used to help see how well your lungs work, allowing a doctor to know how well you can breathe and how effective your lungs are able to bring oxygen to the rest of your body.

In most cases, your doctor may order this type of test if he or she sees you’re having symptoms of lung problems, you’re exposed to certain substances or they simply want to monitor the course of a chronic lung disease, such as asthma or COPD.

Pulmonary Function Test Cost
Pneumocystis jiroveci infection Case 10” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Pulmonary Pathology

How much does a pulmonary function test cost?

The costs of a pulmonary function test will greatly depend on your insurance policy, your doctor, the number of tests and the facility you use.  If you do not have insurance, the costs, from what we researched, greatly varied across the United States, ranging from as little as $1,400 to more than $3,500 for a complete set of tests inside of a doctor’s office.  This price range will often include more than one test, hence the greater costs.

Type of TestAverage Price Reported (without insurance)
Evaluation of Bronchospasm$225
Breathing Capacity Test$165
Determination of Lung Volume$150
Airway Resistance$150
Diffusing Capacity$225
Pulse Oximetry - Exercise$50
Spirometry and Gas Transfer$300
Spirometry, Gas Transfer and Lung Volume (Full Lung Function)$400
Full Lung Function with Reversibility Studies$550

NOTE:  These prices may greatly increase if the procedure was performed inside a hospital setting.

As for patients who do have health insurance, the costs are often covered as long as medically necessary, with most reporting 75 to 100 percent of the test covered.  Of course, these costs would depend on your insurance coverage, but be prepared to pay your co-pays and the reduced amount after your insurance company discount kicks in until you meet your annual deductible.

Prices sourced online
$2,800 in Boston, MA
$5,000 in Jupiter, FL
$3,000 in San Diego, CA
$1,250 in Dallas, TX
$4,400 in Cleveland, OH
$1,450 in Nashville, TN
$3,150 in Lexington, KY
$5,000 in Naples, FL
$1,100 in Portland, OR
$2,650 in Dallas, TX
$1,450 in Newark, NJ

The type of pulmonary function tests

Diffusion capacity test – A diffusion capacity test is able to see how well the small air sacks (alveoli) inside of your lungs are working.  During this test, you will breathe in certain gases, such as helium, carbon dioxide, oxygen or a tracer gas.  As you breathe these gases out, the machine will be able to determine how well your lungs are able to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from your bloodstream.

Inhalation challenge test – These challenge tests are performed to help determine how well you respond to substances which are known to cause asthma and/wheezing.  Also referred to as a provocation study, this test requires you to breathe in a set amount of air through a device known as a nebulizer, either by using a face mask or a mouthpiece.  As you inhale the substance, your lungs are monitored before, during and after.

Multiple-breath washout test – This test is done to check people who currently have cystic fibrosis.  During this test, you will first breathe in air which contains a tracer gas, then, following the exhale, you will breathe in the regular air while your exhale is monitored.  The results, reported as your lung clearance rate, will determine how well your lungs are working.

Plethysmography test – A plethysmography test will measure the volume of gas inside your lungs, also referred to as lung volume.  With this test, you will stand in a booth and breathe into a specific mouthpiece.  By doing so, your doctor will be able to determine your lung volume by measuring the pressure inside of the booth.

Spirometry – In some cases, a spirometry may be included, and this is a test designed to help measure the amount of air you’re able to breathe in and out.  With this test, you will sit in front of a machine while wearing a mouthpiece and nose clip on your nose to prevent any air from escaping out of your nostrils.  Once set up, the respiratory technologist or doctor will tell you how you should breathe for the test.

What it can measure

Forced expiratory flow (FEF) – The average rate of flow during the middle half of an FVC test.

Forced expiratory volume (FEV) – The amount of air that has expired during the first, second and third seconds of an FVC test.

Forced vital capacity (FVC) – The air exhaled forcefully and quickly after inhaling as much air as possible.

Functional residual capacity – The air left in the lungs after exhaling naturally.

Minute volume – The total amount of air that’s exhaled each minute.

Peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) – The fastest rate you’re able to force out of your lungs.

Residual volume – The air left inside of the lungs after exhaling as fast as you can.

Tidal volume – The amount of air either inhaled or exhaled during natural breathing.

Total lung capacity – The total volume of lungs when it is filled with as much air as possible.

Vital capacity – The total volume of air that’s able to be exhaled after inhaling as much air as possible.

source:  University of Rochester Medical Center

Risks of a pulmonary function test

While the test can be safe for most, Healthline.com does note you can feel dizzy or even risk fainting due to the quick breathing exercises.  If you have asthma, then the test, on some rare occasions, can cause an asthma attack or even a collapsed lung.

It can also cause problems for those who have experienced a heart attack, eye surgery, chest surgery, abdominal surgery, heart disease and/or respiratory infection.

PFT can help diagnose…

source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

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Average Reported Cost: $1200

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Less Expensive $1 $1.5K $3K $5K $6.5K More Expensive $8k

How much did you spend?

Was it worth it?  

  1. PAS (Chapel Hill,  North Carolina) paid $1200 and said:

    False positive from a chest X ray, took this test to clear things up, insurance only covered 400, so 800 out of pocket.

    Was it worth it? Yes

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