To determine if you have emphysema, your doctor will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. Your doctor may recommend a variety of tests.

Imaging tests

A chest X-ray can help support a diagnosis of advanced emphysema and rule out other causes of shortness of breath. But the chest X-ray can also show normal findings if you have emphysema.

Computerized tomography (CT) scans combine X-ray images taken from many different directions to create cross-sectional views of internal organs. CT scans can be useful for detecting and diagnosing emphysema. You may also have a CT scan if you're a candidate for lung surgery.

Lab tests

Blood taken from an artery in your wrist can be tested to determine how well your lungs transfer oxygen into, and remove carbon dioxide from, your bloodstream.

Lung function tests

These noninvasive tests measure how much air your lungs can hold and how well the air flows in and out of your lungs. They can also measure how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your bloodstream. One of the most common tests uses a simple instrument called a spirometer, which you blow into.