Spirometry vs Peak Flow Meter: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Usage and Purpose: Spirometry is a comprehensive pulmonary function test performed in a clinical setting that measures the volume and speed of air that can be inhaled and exhaled. It’s primarily used for diagnosing conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other conditions that affect lung function. On the other hand, a peak flow meter is a portable, hand-held device used by patients at home to measure the maximum speed of expiration (Peak Expiratory Flow Rate or PEFR), helping to monitor the severity of asthma and the response to treatment.
  2. Parameters Measured: Spirometry provides multiple measures including Forced Vital Capacity (FVC), Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second (FEV1), and their ratio, among others, offering detailed insights into lung function. A peak flow meter primarily measures Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF), providing a simpler, though less comprehensive, measure of lung function.
  3. Complexity and Ease of Use: Spirometry is performed by trained healthcare professionals and involves more complex equipment, making it less suitable for frequent home monitoring. A peak flow meter, however, is simple and quick to use, making it ideal for patients to use regularly at home to monitor their condition and the effect of their medication.

What is Spirometry?

Spirometry is a diagnostic test for the assessment of lung function. It measures the volume and flow of air exhaled and inhaled by an individual. Spirometry is popular for delivering valuable information about lung capacity. 

Spirometry is a handheld device. The person subjected to the test must take a deep breath and exhale forcefully into it. For accurate measurements, a tight seal around the mouthpiece is recommended. This device should be used by trained professionals only, and the results should be evaluated by healthcare professionals as well. 

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It is safe for all; however, people with certain medical conditions need some modification while testing. Knowing the capacity of the lungs is a requirement to test the fitness of the patient before performing surgery. Any lung disease can also be traced with this device.

What is Peak Flow Meter?

A peak flow meter is used to manage and monitor asthma. It delivers important information about airflow limitation and makes aware if there are any changes in lung function. In order to use this meter, people need to take a deep breath and place the mouthpiece of the peak flow meter in their mouth. Then they blow into the device as forcefully and quickly as possible to exhale the air.

The process is repeated three times. The highest recorded number is considered to be the peak flow measurement, as its name suggests. It is very easy to port, and it is also inexpensive. It is easy to carry, and anyone can perform the test as no professional training is needed to use it. 

As a result, it is a great personal asthma management device. Shifts in peak flow readings can be a sign that the asthma is getting worse, and the patient may need a change in treatment. Peak flow meters can also identify the reason for triggered asthma. Allergens or exercise can be some of the reasons, and peak flow meters can assess them.

Difference Between Spirometry and Peak Flow Meter

  1. Spirometry will give you a detailed evaluation of lung volumes and airflow rates. On the other hand, a peak flow meter is a portable device that is used for asthma management.
  2. While using spirometry, one needs to maximize the inhalation and exhale forcefully. But the peak flow meter only needs one to exhale forcefully.
  3. Spirometry comes with specialized equipment, and it is complex to use. On the other hand, a peak flow meter is very easy to use.
  4. Due to the involvement of other equipment, spirometry is more expensive than a peak flow meter, which is widely available and easy to use. 
  5. Only professional healthcare facilities can use spirometry, while the peak flow meter is portable and suitable for home use.
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Comparison Between Spirometry and Peak Flow Meter

Parameter of ComparisonSpirometryPeak Flow Meter
NatureIt is a lung function test.It is a device that monitors and measures lung function.
UseIt is used to diagnose various pulmonary lung diseases.It is used for the purpose of monitoring asthma.
Duration of resultIt requires a few minutes to process the result.It is a quick test that is done in seconds.
Age of usageIt can be used for adults who are not diagnosed with heart conditions.It is not recommended for children below the age of 12.
Fetched informationIt will provide detailed lung volumes and airflow rates.It is a single measurement to show maximum airflow.
  1. https://journals.lww.com/ajpmr/fulltext/2004/08000/comparison_of_peak_cough_flows_measured_by.5.aspx
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02770900903159726

Last Updated : 14 October, 2023

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