Respiratory Therapy Assessments

Routine Assessment

At every clinic visit, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) requires us to perform these tests:

During each clinical visit, a hand held device called a spirometer will measure a FVC (forced vital capacity) and a FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in one second).

The FVC measures the total amount of air a person can forcefully breathe out after one deep breath. The FEV1 measures the amount of air forced out in the first second of the FVC.

With the results of these two tests, a clinician is able to tell if there are any lung volume abnormalities and which therapies can help to improve them.  The respiratory therapist will provide you with a copy of the PFT performed in clinic if asked. The results are based on the patient’s age, sex, height, and weight.

The child may be introduced to the equipment and the deep breathing maneuvers as early as 3 to 4, with noisemakers, party horns, kazoos or pinwheels to blow into. You may be asked to practice with them on taking big deep breaths and blowing the air all of the way out. Actual documentation of the PFT begins around age 6 or when it is felt to be accurate.

Full PFTs are done yearly in the hospital PFT lab, for more complete testing and information.

For questions about PFTs, contact your clinic respiratory therapist or your CF physician.

For questions about PFTs, contact your clinic respiratory therapist or your CF physician.

The respiratory therapist will ask for a sample of your sputum, which is tested to see what kinds of microorganisms are growing in your lungs and determines which antibiotics will best fight the bacteria. This is called a sputum culture. The sputum sample is collected in a sterile container and sent to a laboratory .The sample is then placed on a special plate that enables growth of certain bacteria and fungi. If either are present, a test will be done to find which medication/antibiotic is the best choice for decreasing the amount of pathogens present.

The respiratory therapist will review your current airway clearance program, listen to your lungs, and ask about your health. They will help with any equipment issues or questions you may have, and provide education on respiratory topics.

Yearly Assessment

Once each year, all of the patients who visit St Luke’s Cystic Fibrosis Center are asked extra questions about their lung health during the respiratory therapy evaluation. This is required by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation practice guidelines. The information we collect is entered into the CF registry database if consent to be included in the registry is given. This data is used to compile statistics that help us improve the care we provide for our patients. The CFF also shares this information with the public at

Asking these extra questions gives the respiratory therapists a chance to discuss any additional issues you might have regarding your pulmonary health. We will always be available during a clinic visit to discuss topics relating to your lungs.

You will be asked to bring all of your respiratory equipment to your annual visit. This will allow us to check your nebulizers, metered dose inhalers, medications, and airway clearance devices for technique, fit and signs of wear or improper function. We will review huff coughing and discuss when you should be contacting the CF center.

A list of topics covered on the assessment is provided below. These topics are in addition to the routine assessment done at every clinic visit.

  • Supplemental oxygen use
  • Noninvasive ventilator use (BIPAP)
  • Date of last chest X-ray
  • Flu vaccine administration
  • Smoking history and/or exposure
  • Changes in respiratory secretions
  • Pain issues
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Airway clearance techniques
  • Respiratory medications
  • Nebulizer equipment