At your first appointment, expect your physician to take your complete medical history and conduct a thorough examination. Several COPD tests may be ordered to make a proper diagnosis and monitor your ongoing condition. Below are the most common exams, along with why you need them and what they can tell you about your condition.

Chest X-ray

  • Creates pictures of the structures inside your chest--heart, lungs, and blood vessels—to look for signs COPD or rule out other conditions
  • Normal results include lack of abnormal fluid collections, no cysts or masses, normal-sized heart, no signs of inflammation, and both lungs inflated


  • Measures the volume and speed that air is both breathed in and exhaled
  • Normal results include:
    • Forced Vital Capacity: 4.8L for males and 3.7L for females
    • Tidal Volume: 500 mL for males and 390 mL for females
    • Total Lung Capacity: 6L for males and 4.7L for females

Arterial Blood Gases

  • Measures the content of oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH (for acidity). May also look at electrolytes, hemoglobin and lactic acid
  • Normal results include:
    • PaO2=80-10
    • mmHgPaCO2=35-45
    • mmHgBicarbonate=21-27 mmol/LpH=7.35-7.45
    • Total CO2=25-30 mmol/L
    • Base excess=-3 to +3 mmol/L


  • Measures the blood’s oxygen saturation
  • Normal result is 95-100%

Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)

  • Measures the electrical activity of the heart—both the rhythm and the intervals
Normal results include:
  • Resting heart rate of 60-100 beats/minute
  • QRS complex (action of ventricles)=80120T
  • Wave (ventricular recovery=160ms
  • QT interval (prolonged one is suggestive risk of sudden death)=300-400 ms

CT Scan

Occasionally performed to get a more detailed view of the lungs

Alpha-1 Antitrypin (AAT)

  • Measurement of this protein that protects the lungs.
  • When it is insufficient, the risk for developing emphysema is increased.