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What is Pulmonology?

Pulmonology is a branch of medicine that studies the respiratory system and the disorders that affect it. The respiratory system includes:

  • Mouth and nose
  • Sinuses
  • Pharynx (Throat)
  • Larynx (Voicebox)
  • Trachea (Windpipe)
  • Bronchial tubes
  • Lungs and bronchioles, alveoli
  • Diaphragm

What is a pulmonologist?

A pulmonologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the respiratory system, lungs, and other organs involved in breathing.

What are the Conditions Pulmonologists Treat?

Pulmonologists typically treat the following conditions:

  • Asthma, which is the inflammation and narrowing of the airways.
  • Bronchiectasis, which is the abnormal widening and damage of the main airway branches within the lungs
  • Interstitial lung disease, which is characterized by scarring of lung tissue
  • Occupational lung disease, which is due to inhalation of dust, chemicals, or other harmful substances
  • Tuberculosis, which is caused by a bacterial infection
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Acute and chronic bronchitis, which is characterized by coughing and mucus production
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is characterized by long-term constriction of airways and difficulty breathing
  • Cystic fibrosis, which is caused by the build-up of mucus within the lungs
  • Emphysema, which is characterized by damage to the air sacs within the lungs
  • Pneumonia, which is caused by a bacterial infection that causes the air sacs to be filled with pus

What are the Diagnostic Tests involved in Pulmonology?

In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be ordered to diagnose your lung condition:

  • CT scan or ultrasound to obtain detailed images of the anatomical structures inside of your chest
  • A pulmonary function test, which is a breathing test that determines how well your lungs are working
  • A pulse oximetry test to assess your blood's oxygen saturation level
  • A pleural biopsy, which is a procedure that involves taking a tiny sample of tissue from the thin membrane that surrounds the lungs
  • Bronchoscopy, which is a procedure that examines your airways to see if there are any problems with your respiratory system using a thin tube-like instrument that is passed through your mouth or nose and into the lungs
  • Sleep study, which can aid in the diagnosis of sleep disorders like sleep apnea
  • Blood tests, which measure the amount of oxygen and other substances in your blood
  • X-rays, which are used to generate images of your lungs and other organs in your chest, and utilize modest doses of radiation
  • Spirometry test, which determines your lung capacity by measuring how much air you can inhale and exhale

What Procedures do Pulmonologists Perform?

Procedures that pulmonologists can conduct include:

  • Thoracentesis: This procedure helps to remove fluid or air from the pleural space around the lungs.
  • Implantation of a tracheal or bronchial stent: This helps to open up sections of the pulmonary system such as the windpipe or bronchi.
  • Pulmonary hygiene: This is the process of removing fluid and mucus from the lungs.
  • Ablation of the airways: This procedure opens the clogged airways or makes breathing easier.
  • Biopsy: This is a procedure used to obtain a tissue or fluid sample to establish a diagnosis.
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  • American College of Physicians
  • Andrews Research & Education Foundation
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • JJM Medical College
  • Acuity Benefit consulting