Numbers Confusion

Goal-oriented breathing test (pulmonary function test – PFT)

Finally got the long-overdue breathing test yesterday, and am more confused than ever since the test had changed (yet again), and the information the doc was giving me verbally didn’t match expectations for prior test results.

Old-school breathing pressure test

In particular, the doc said I was at 40% for my FEV1 / FVC – which was a huge improvement over my prior range of 26-29% for oxygen saturation rates.

However positive that information may sound, the reality is that I’m feeling more tired to the point where I no longer drive for exercise class as my oxygen saturation drops into the mid-80’s when I wear my oximeter while exercising and trying to figure out what’s happening, and the tiredness / exhaustion is making me a danger on the road for driving home after class. So, telling me my lung function is better (maybe he meant after the inhaler?) while also telling me I was still disabled with COPD makes no sense.

Add in the fact that the pulmonologist then went on to say that I’d lost 40% of my small airways lung function since my last test almost 18 months ago, and that it might be time for oxygen or different meds (that I have trouble tolerating), and I’m more confused than ever.

Now, try and breathe normally so we can test your lung function…

So, my test results haven’t been posted yet, and I’m chasing the doc to have them posted in the portal or emailed to me so that I can look at them at my leisure and try to figure out what’s really occurring.

Frankly, if docs are going to run NEW tests, I wish they’d also run the old style test at the same time during the first new test for continuity of test results / comparison over time when we are moving to a different testing model.

2014 Test Results – the day I was leaving for Australia
2015 test results – 4 months later, with meds that aggravate quality of life and give me a whole other new set of issues. Not worth it !
2019 – yes, I’m still non-compliant with recommended inhaler meds. I don’t want cateracts, rashes, inability to drive due to blurry vision, etc., etc., etc.

In my case, yesterday’s test used to be delivered in a plastic box, then it was a test without the box. Next, it was a series of “goal” oriented tests where I had to keep the bird flying over the water (and not fall in), or get the sun up and keep it up during the time of the test. Yesterday was the classic pressure / shutter test shown in the image above, without any incentive graphics. My glasses were off. My nose was pinched shut. I didn’t have to hold my cheeks, but it was a version of that same pulmonary function test I’d done a few years ago, before we switched to the goal-oriented graphics test.

This test shows someone working to blow out candles – this is a version of sunrise / bird flying graphics that are goal-oriented to incent someone to become competitive and blow out the candles using their best efforts to “win” against the testing goals.

Goal-oriented “gaming” or incentive testing
Goal-oriented testing shows only one candle remaining lit

Once the test is done, you get a report like this one so that you can understand your results over time:

So, no answers here, yet, but I hope I get a copy of my latest test results soon so that I can begin to compare the format to my 2019 test results so that I can better understand the latest info. Even if I’m only a layperson, I have the right (and, frankly, the duty) to be involved in my care and to make informed decisions about my quality of life.

I’m all for newer and better tests, and methods to try and get us to take these tests seriously by tagging our internal “competitor” for trying to get us to better comprehend the goal of the testing – getting you to try your hardest and not giggle from the silliness of the tests, etc., while trying to pattern the breathing so that the person doing the test shows accurate breathing patterns under specific circumstances which would never happen in real life (i.e., the standing up and breathing into a tube in a variety of hard and “natural” and unnatural breathing patterns).

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