About Our Spirometry Laboratory Service

The Spirometry Laboratory is a sub-unit of the Lung Centre (Division of Respiratory Medicine, University of British Columbia). The service aims to provide booked pulmonary function testing (physician requisition required). Due to COVID-19, an appointment is necessary. Services are covered by the Medical Services Plan if it is not work-related mandated testing.

The laboratory is accredited through the Diagnostic Accreditation Program (DAP) – a division of the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons. Technicians and equipment meet the American Thoracic Society Standards for pulmonary function tests and undergo regular and rigorous quality control checks.

Tests Offered and How to Make a Referral

Basic pulmonary function *tests are offered as walk-in basis with a valid, complete requisition authorized by a physician or authorized healthcare provider. (Testing occurs in the order of arrival and if have enough patients walking-in for testing, we may close early). The following tests can be requested:

  • Pre-bronchodilator spirometry (15 minutes) – see video demo

  • Pre and post-bronchodilator spirometry (30 minutes)

  • Oximetry studies both at rest and with mobilization for 3 minutes (5 minutes)

*Patients less than 16 years should be referred to BC Children’s Hospital for testing. Click here for more information.

What to Bring

Note: ​We are scent-free. No perfume or heavily scented body products, please. No pets, except for service animals.

It is essential that you bring the following items for your visit:

  • Your BC Driver’s License or Health Care Card.
  • An interpreter if necessary (while some staff does speak a second language, an interpretation service is not provided here).
  • Your complete, signed requisition form given to you by your referring healthcare provider (please note, tests cannot be performed if the requisition is incomplete or un-signed).
  • No appointment is required but patients are advised to bring their referral forms and Health Care Card when they come for testing.
  • Check you have complied with the patient preparation instructions

The following optional items may make your visit more enjoyable:

  • Water bottle and/or snacks. Check out our Patient and Visitor Guide page for a full list of vendors in this building. 
  • Reading material. There are also magazines available in the waiting area.

What to Expect

When you arrive on the 7th floor of the Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre, turn to face the mountains and follow the signs towards the ‘Walk-In Spirometry Laboratory’, Station 5.

When you arrive, follow these two steps:

1. Please check in with the receptionist if you have a booked appointment.

2. Take a seat (there is no need to check in at reception).

After a short while a technician will come out and give you a pre-test questionnaire to complete (click here to view a copy). This is to ensure it is safe for you to perform the test and also to check you have complied with the test preparations (required for accurate results).

You may see other patients (who have arrived after you) being tested before you – these patients are not coming to the spirometry laboratory. We have several patient groups, often arriving at the same time, who have booked appointments to see a Respirologist. All booked spirometry patients will be tested in order of arrival.

When it is your turn to be tested, the technician will your name. Depending on which tests your doctor has ordered, you may do the first part of your test, then have to wait a short time before doing the second part of your test – if this is the case, the technician will explain the procedure to you fully.

How Long Will I Have to Wait?

Here is a list of each test and approximately how long it takes to perform:

  • Pre-bronchodilator spirometry (15 minutes)
  • Pre and post-bronchodilator spirometry (30 minutes)
  • Oximetry resting (5 minutes)
  • Oximetry walking (5 minutes)

If your doctor has requested multiple tests, you will need to add together the test times to get an indication of how long your testing will take.

If you prefer a booked appointment – please ask your referring physician to make an appointment at an alternative laboratory in the lower mainland (click here for the referral form and list of alternate locations).

What Happens to My Test Results?

Test results are interpreted by a Respirologist at The Lung Centre and the interpreted results will be faxed to your ordering physician within 7-14 business days of testing. If you need your results more urgently, please let the technician know.

A preliminary report (un-interpreted report) can be faxed to your referring physician on the same day as your test.

We are unable to give patients a copy of their results unless this has been specifically requested by your healthcare provider. We are unable to e-mail results at this time as confidentiality cannot be assured.

We look forward to welcoming you!

Pulmonary Function Tests

The Centre for Lung Health Clinic has been accredited by the Diagnostic Accreditation Program and offers pulmonary function testing for patients coming to see the Respirologists and through our spirometry laboratory service. All patients need a requisition from a physician before tests can be performed. Some tests can only be requested by a Lung Centre Respirologist. Please note that we do not offer laboratory services for patients 16 years or younger – these patients should be referred to the pulmonary function laboratory at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.


15-30 minutes

This is a short, simple breathing test requiring you to take a deep breath and blow out hard into a mouthpiece. The spirometer records how much air you can blow out and how fast you can blow it out. You will have to do this at least three times and your best effort will be reported. This takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.

If your doctor wants you to do the test before and after Ventolin (Salbutamol), an inhaled medication that relaxes the muscles around your breathing tubes in your lungs, the test will take a total of about 30 minutes.

If your doctor wants you to do the test before and after Ventolin (Salbutamol), an inhaled medication that relaxes the muscles around your breathing tubes in your lungs, the test will take a total of about 30 minutes.

Find out how to prepare for this test Contraindications for Spirometry
Allergy Skin Testing

30 minutes

On the inside surface or your arm (with palm up), small drops of liquid containing potential allergens are placed. The surface of the skin is then scratched with a small needle (through the drop of liquid) and the reaction is measured ten minutes later. If you do react to the allergen, a small red bump will form where the skin was scratched, something like a mosquito bite and it may be itchy.

The size of the bump is measured and recorded and in this way, along with your health history, it can be determined if you have an allergy or not. About 70% of people who have asthma have allergies as well so this is a very common test.

There are certain medications you should abstain from before taking the test or they may make the test invalid. Please click here to see a list. The video to the right will give you an indication of how the test will be performed.

Allergy Skin Test / Medication to Abstain From
Arterial Blood Gas (ABG)

15–30 minutes

A sample of blood is taken from an artery in your wrist to determine the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. This sample is needed in order for the doctor to be able to order home oxygen therapy for you.


5-15 minutes

The test is painless, fast, and easy. A small plastic probe is clipped onto your index finger, infrared light shines through your finger and a reading of the oxygen level in your blood and your heart rate is immediately produced. The doctor may ask you to do this ‘at rest’ (while sitting) or while walking. For an indication of what’s involved in this test, please watch the video to the right.

A walking oximetry test involves you walking at your own pace for a maximum of three minutes while the oximeter probe is attached to your finger. The technician will be monitoring your oxygen levels, and taking measurements while you walk. If your oxygen level drops to a certain level the technician will stop the test and take some additional resting measurements. This test is done by trained personnel in a safe environment. The doctor needs the results from this test in order to determine if you need to use extra oxygen when you are walking or exercising. The results are immediately available for the Respirologist.

Six Minute Walk Test

20-30 minutes

The purpose of this test is to see how far you can walk in six minutes and is used by your doctor to assess your functional exercise capacity. Sometimes the doctor will have you repeat this test on subsequent visits to see if there is any change in your exercise capacity over time (or after treatment). For an indication of what to expect when you come for this test, please watch the video to the right.

Sputum Induction

1 hour and 15 minutes

The aim of the sputum induction test is for you to be able to cough up a sample of sputum from your lungs. The sample is then sent to the laboratory for analysis. The results give your doctor more information about what sort of cells are in your lungs and, therefore, helps guide your treatment.

During the test, you will be asked to inhale different concentrations of a saltwater mist. This mist makes it easier for you to produce the sputum sample from your lungs. Before the sputum induction test and after each inhalation you will be asked to perform a breathing test (see information on Spirometry). This is so the technologist can monitor any changes in your breathing. It is advisable not to eat anything for about 1 hour before the test. For a further indication of what to expect, please watch the video to the left.