Shortness of breathe

Tests and Imaging

The diagnostic tests you may need will depend on your particular symptoms and physical findings.

Tests you might have include:

  • Pulse oximetry, a test performed by putting a clamp on your finger or earlobe to estimate the amount of oxygen in your blood
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) to look for signs of a heart attack or irregular heart rhythms
  • A chest X-ray to look for infections or growths in your lungs
  • Blood work to look for anemia and other causes
  • Pulmonary function tests to look for signs of asthma or emphysema and other lung conditions

Other tests may include:

  • A computerized tomography (CT) scan of your chest
  • A stress test
  • An echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of your heart to look for problems with your heart valves, and if you have any damaged areas in your heart
  • A bronchoscopy uses a flexible tube that is placed through your mouth and down into the bronchi to look for tumors or a foreign body. Bronchoscopy would be done for shortness of breath only if a concerning finding is present on chest imaging.

Dyspnea and COPD

Dyspnea is very common with COPD. Your doctor may use the modified Medical Research Council dyspnea scale to identify the severity of your dyspnea.

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