Shortness of Breath | Diagnosis & Tests


What tests will my doctor perform?

Your doctor can help find the cause of your breathing problem by asking you questions about your symptoms and performing a physical exam. Your doctor also may order some tests.

To find the cause of your shortness of breath, your doctor may order a chest X-ray. He or she may also order an electrocardiogram (also called an ECG). During this test, your doctor will have you lie down so your heart can be monitored. The ECG machine creates a picture, or tracing, that shows your heart's electrical signals. You may need to have a computerized tomography (CT) scan, which is another type of X-ray. Your doctor may measure the strength of your breathing (called a spirometer) and the oxygen level in your blood. You also may need to have a blood test.


Evaluation of Chronic Dyspnea by NG Karnani, GM Reisfield, GR Wilson (American Family Physician April 15, 2005,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 04/05