In medicine, pulmonology is the specialty that deals with diseases of the lungs and the respiratory tract. It is called chest medicine and respiratory medicine in some countries and areas. Pulmonology is generally considered a branch of internal medicine, although it is closely related to intensive care medicine when dealing with patients requiring mechanical ventilation. Surgery of the respiratory tract is generally performed by specialists in cardiothoracic surgery (or thoracic surgery). Chest medicine is not a specialty in itself but is an inclusive term which pertains to the treatment of diseases of the chest and contains the fields of pulmonology, thoracic surgery, and intensive care medicine.
Pulmonology is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases, as well as secondary prevention (tuberculosis).
In medicine, 50% of all diagnoses can be made by a thorough medical history, and lung diseases are no different. The pulmonologist will conduct a general review and focus on:
Physical diagnostics are as important as in the other fields of medicine.
As many heart diseases can give pulmonary signs, a thorough cardiac investigation is usually included.
Other tools include: -
Surgical treatment in generally performed by the (cardio)thoracic surgeon, generally after primary evaluation by a pulmonologist.
Medication is the most important treatment of most diseases of pulmonology, either by inhalation (bronchodilators and steroids) or in oral form (antibiotics, leukotriene antagonists ).
Oxygen therapy is often necessary in severe respiratory disease (emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis). When this is insufficient, the patient might require mechanical ventilation.
Diseases managed by the pulmonologist
Pulmonologists are involved in both clinical and basic research of the respiratory system, ranging from the anatomy of the bronchial epithelium to the most effective treatment of pulmonary hypertension (a disease notoriously resistant to therapy).