Diagnosing lung diseases when they are at an early stage is vital to effective treatment. Our dedicated specialists treat adults and children with a range of conditions at our innovative, ground-breaking heart and lung centre.
To aid the diagnosis of lung conditions, we use a wide range of tests and scans at Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Specialist Care.
Lung function tests
We offer a range of lung function tests to evaluate how well your lungs work. All tests are painless and should not take longer than an hour. Depending on the results, you may need a blood test or exercise test to aid accurate diagnosis. Tests include:
This test involves blowing into a device called a spirometer to show how well you breathe in and out. You will be asked to breathe in fully and then blow out as hard and fast as you can.
This test involves breathing into a device similar to a spirometer, whilst sitting in a glass box with a clip on your nose (to prevent air escaping). This allows us to gauge breathing capacity.
This test involves breathing in a harmless gas, holding it in for 10 seconds and then breathing out the gas into a mouthpiece. We will then test the gas to detect how much oxygen is in the lungs.
Fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) testing involves measuring the concentration of nitric oxide in the exhaled breath. It is used to identify inflammation in the lungs. FeNO can help diagnose asthma in adults and children. FeNO measurement is recommended as an option to support asthma management in people who are symptomatic despite using inhaled corticosteroids.
Arterial blood gas sampling
Blood-gas analysis is a useful test involving a small amount of blood being taken from the base of that patient’s ear lobe. It is needed for the clinician to understand whether or not there are any physical or metabolic changes affecting the patient’s condition. This is often paired with background information on the clinical condition collected by routine lung function tests.
Skin prick allergy testing
Skin prick testing is a reliable method to assess patients with suspected allergy. When certain fluids are introduced into the skin, via a small pin prick, the response is assessed and provides evidence of an allergy and is a useful tool to help with the confirmation or a diagnosis of a suspected reaction.
Exercise test to diagnose lung conditions
An exercise test allows us to monitor changes to your heart rate and breathing whilst you exercise.
We will ask you to walk on a treadmill, whilst breathing into a mouthpiece with a soft clip on your nose. This will enable our specialists to measure how much air that you breathe during exercise.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) will be used to monitor your heart rate, whilst a blood pressure cuff will be used to measure your blood pressure. Meanwhile, a small peg on your finger will also be used to detect the level of oxygen in your blood.
Imaging tests to diagnose lung conditions
Consultants at RB&HH Specialist Care provide a range of imaging tests to build a more detailed picture of your heart and lungs.
A chest x-ray is just like a normal x-ray. It allows us to get a picture of your lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs and diaphragm. You will be asked to hold your breath during the x-ray and most often two will be taken.
Computed tomography (CT) scan
A CT scan is a special imaging test that allows us to build detailed pictures of your heart and lungs. You will lie on a bed as it moves through a scanner and will be asked to hold your breath whilst the scan is taken.
Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) scan
A CMR scan provides detailed images of the heart function and structure, by using strong magnetic and radio waves. You will lie on a bed as it moves through the scanner. You will be asked to keep still and to hold your breath during the scan.
Nuclear medicine can be used in the diagnosis of heart or lung conditions by injecting a special substance with radioactive properties into the blood. Known as a ‘tracer’, this substance helps to highlight the part of the body being scanned.
Bronchoscopy to diagnose lung conditions
A bronchoscopy is a procedure where a doctor can look at the trachea (windpipe), the bronchi (branches of the airways) and into some areas of the lungs with a video bronchoscope. This enables samples to be obtained for the diagnosis of a variety of lung conditions ranging from lung cancer, infection through to lung fibrosis.
The diagnostic tests include:
- ‘wash’ or bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)
- transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA)
- endobronchial biopsy
- transbronchial lung biopsy.
Endobronchial ultrasound guided transbronchial fine needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA)
This procedure uses a special bronchoscope with ultrasound scanning built into it. This allows the area beyond the air passages to be evaluated and samples from lymph glands and other areas adjacent to the airways to be obtained under ultrasound control.
Complementary services for lung conditions
Effective treatment of lung conditions requires a multidisciplinary approach.
Here’s an example of the additional services we provide to accelerate and enhance recovery:
Diet and nutrition advice
Our expert dieticians will work with you to create tailored plans for weight loss, managing food allergies and simple ways to make essential, effective diet and lifestyle changes that complement your treatment and therapy.
Our highly-trained physiotherapists work alongside dieticians, consultants and therapists to ensure your physical wellbeing is looked after. Physiotherapy services include exercise regimes, breathing exercises, airway clearance, pain management and rehabilitation programmes.
Our psychologists offer a range of therapies to treat psychological problems associated with long term or acute illness. There is strong evidence from research studies linking effective treatment of mental health conditions with significantly improved physical health outcomes.