Pumonologists are highly specialized doctors who treat respiratory disease and other illnesses that affect our ability to breathe, treating conditions from asthma to lung disease.

Watch an Overview of Pulmonology

About Pulmonology

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.

Pulmonology Education & Training

Training to become a pulmonologist requires the completion of a bachelor’s degree, typically in biology, before attending medical school. After graduation from an accredited medical school with an MD or DO degree, the physician must enter a residency program in internal medicine.

Residency training in internal medicine typically lasts three years and provides the resident with first-hand exposure to the diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases. Pulmonology requires additional specialized training in the form of a fellowship. Fellowships typically last one to two years, and train the physician specifically in the area of pulmonology. They hone their skills in the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases and disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions. After completing a residency and fellowship, the pulmonologist may seek board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine to earn the distinction of “board certified Pulmonologist”; pulmonologists are require to seek a medical license from the state(s) in which they practice.