With spiroergometry athletes and patients are tested for the resilience of the lungs, heart and circulation. Read how the investigation works!


The spiroergometry (also Ergospirometrie) is a procedure for the examination of the loadability of the lung and the cardiovascular system. In addition to ECG and respiratory activity, the doctor measures the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the breathing air (respiratory gases) of the patient under physical stress. Read here how spiroergometry works, when it is used and what its risks are.

Product Overview


  • When will the spiroergometry be carried out?

  • When should not spiroergometry be performed?

  • How does the spiroergometry work?

  • Spiroergometry: evaluation

  • What are the risks of spiroergometry?

When will the spiroergometry be carried out?

Spiroergometry is used to diagnose and follow-up or therapy control of diseases of the cardiovascular system and the lungs, for example in the case of cardiac insufficiency. At the beginning of such a disease, the patient often has complaints only when exercising, for example climbing stairs.

Using spiroergometry, the physician can determine the individual load limit of the patient and thus the severity of the disease. In addition, based on the results, he can tell if the cause of a performance impairment is in the heart or lungs.

In addition, spiroergometry is used in sports medicine to assess the performance and training success of healthy athletes.

When should not spiroergometry be performed?

In some diseases, the examination is too risky for the patient and should not be performed. In medicine this is called a contraindication. Pre-existing conditions that prohibit spiroergometry include:

  • fresh heart attack
  • untreated or newly occurring cardiac arrhythmias
  • Inflammations of the heart (endo-, myo- or pericarditis)
  • Closure of a pulmonary vessel (pulmonary embolism)
  • insufficiently treated asthma

For these diseases, the examination is important

  • Angina
  • asthma
  • COPD
  • House dust allergy
  • Coronary heart disease
  • emphysema

How does the spiroergometry work?

To measure respiratory function and breathing gases, the patient must wear a tight-fitting mask over the mouth and nose. It is connected to a flow meter and a gas analysis equipment, so that at the same time the respiratory activity and the oxygen consumption and the production of carbon dioxide can be measured

In addition, blood pressure and heart activity (via an ECG) oxygen saturation are recorded. If necessary, the smallest blood samples are additionally taken from the earlobe during the course of the test in order to measure the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide and the pH of the blood or to determine the lactate value (important indicator of muscle cell metabolism).

Now the patient has to exercise a physical burden on a stationary bicycle (ergometer) or treadmill. The load is increased stepwise (step test) or continuously (ramp test) until the planned load intensity is reached or medical measurements indicate the individual load limit.

Spiroergometry takes between ten and twenty minutes. However, if the patient experiences symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness, the doctor will stop the examination prematurely.

More about the symptoms

  • dyspnea
  • Clubbed fingers
  • increase in weight
  • stridor
  • to cough
  • back pain
  • a headache
  • nail changes
  • cyanosis
  • hyperventilation

Spiroergometry: evaluation

From spiroergometry, the computer calculates various respiratory parameters, for example, the respiratory rate, the respiratory depth (and from it the respiratory minute volume), the oxygen uptake and the amount of exhaled carbon dioxide. From these values, the computer creates graphics that the doctor uses to determine if and how much a patient is impaired in his or her performance. The cause of a performance limitation can often be deduced from this examination technique

What are the risks of spiroergometry?

By constantly monitoring the circulatory functions of the patient, spiroergometry is a very safe procedure. At the first sign of severe cardiac arrhythmia or other complications, the doctor breaks the spiroergometry immediately and can initiate the necessary treatment. In addition, patients should immediately report symptoms that exceed the normal physical response to exertion.

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