The future of pulmonary function testing.
The pulmonary function lab of today is heavily focused on describing pathophysiology and quantifying the extent of disease. As we move forward, it is important that the results of pulmonary function tests go beyond this and be linked to important outcomes that truly affect clinical decision making. To get there, improvements in device performance are required, high quality technicians are critical, and properly trained interpreting clinicians with good reference standards are mandatory. Moreover, as accessibility to these tests is increased, it is important that quality metrics remain intact. There is a wide array of novel tests that might be performed by pulmonary function labs in the future. These range from modification of current technologies to brand new technologies that are still in early development. Examples include exhaled breath analysis, sophisticated analyses of lung mechanics and gas exchange, cardiac and tissue oxygenation assessments, and imaging technologies. Adoption of any new technology will require, even more than today, clear evidence that the new technology is a real adjunct to clinical decision making.
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