Health Care Providers: Pulmonologists
What Is Pulmonology?
Pulmonology (pol-muh-NOL-uh-jee), also known as respiratory medicine, is the medical specialty that deals with diseases and problems of the respiratory system (lungs and airways).
What Is a Pulmonologist?
A pulmonologist (pol-muh-NOL-uh-jist) is a doctor who studies, diagnoses, prevents, and treats lung and airway problems.
Why Would Someone Need One?
Pulmonologists diagnose and treat many respiratory problems, including:
- airway obstruction (blockage)
- chronic (long-lasting) cough
- lung infections
- bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- cystic fibrosis
- sleep apnea and other sleep problems
- pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs)
They do medical tests and procedures such as:
- pulmonary function tests
- bronchoscopy (looking inside the lungs)
- imaging such as chest X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans
- positron emission tomography (PET) scans
- sleep studies (polysomnography)
- pulse oximetry
- small surgical procedures to get samples of tissue from inside the chest or lungs
- thoracentesis to remove air or fluid from around the lungs
What Is Their Training?
A pulmonologist's training typically includes:
- 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
- 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
- 3 years of training in an internal medicine residency program
- 2 years of subspecialty fellowship training in pulmonology. A “fellow” is a doctor who had more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.
They also might have further training in a subspecialty, such as critical care medicine or pediatric pulmonology.
Good to Know
Pulmonology is closely related to critical care medicine when caring for patients who need mechanical ventilation (assisted breathing machines).
Besides being experts in caring for the respiratory system, pulmonologists can specialize even further, like focusing on a condition, such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis (scarred and damaged lungs), or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).