Pulmonologists are highly specialized internists that provide an array of diagnostic and treatment options for those with respiratory complications, or conditions of the respiratory system. Although pulmonology is a highly specialized field, it often overlaps with other specialties and pulmonologists may be called upon to assist other physicians when providing care for any number of chronic conditions.
Because patients are usually referred to a pulmonologist by a primary care provider, a visit to the pulmonologist typically begins with diagnostic procedures ranging from the very simple (listening to the patient’s breathing with a stethoscope) to the very complex (complete pulmonary function tests). Pulmonologists also employ the use of bronchoscopes to view patients’ airways; spirometers to measure lung capacity; body plethysmographs for more accurate lung volume measurements; diffusion capacity tests, and other diagnostic procedures.
Pulmonologists treat numerous complications and diseases, including: asthma, COPD, emphysema, pneumonia, bronchitis, various forms of cancer, lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and many other disorders. Treatments provided by pulmonologists include: the prescription of medicine, oxygen therapy, managing a mechanical ventilator, radiation therapies, pulmonary rehabilitation, and numerous others. Some pulmonologists specialize further within the field, concentrating their care on one specific disease, condition or area, such as sleep medicine.