Supine VC

A simple test performed lying down to measure lung capacity

The vital capacity (VC) of your lungs is best tested in a lying-down (supine) position


If you’re experiencing breathing or lung-related issues, such as a persistent cough, asthma or breathlessness, you may be asked to carry out a supine VC, a simple test to measure your lung capacity. Supine VC breathing tests are often recommended to test the strength of your diaphragm.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    Your lungs take in the maximum amount of air they can when you’re lying down in a relaxed position on your back. This is because your diaphragm can move more freely than when standing up or sitting down. This quick and simple test to record the total amount of air that you can breathe out will be performed while you’re lying comfortably. You’ll be asked to breathe in and then out fully. The amount of air you breathe will be measured using an instrument called a spirometer. To be sure of an accurate reading you may be asked to repeat the test a couple of times.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Before your test, your consultant will explain everything you need to know and answer any questions you may have. You may be asked to avoid certain things beforehand, such as smoking, caffeine, heavy meals, specific medications, or vigorous exercise. Your consultant will advise exactly what’s relevant to you so that you can come prepared.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    After the test, your consultant will explain the results and answer any questions you may have. Depending on your circumstances, you may be asked to return for other vital lung capacity tests so your consultant can monitor your progress and see if your condition has improved.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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