Respiratory therapists

Respiratory therapists are specialists in pulmonology and cardiology, diagnosing and treating people suffering from heart or lung problems.

They treat patients with conditions affecting the cardiopulmonary system including asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, cardiovascular disorders and trauma.


What is a pulmonologist?

A pulmonologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diseases that affect the bronchial tubes and lungs. In many cases, this type of specialist also works with heart issues related to the lungs or partners with a cardiologist to help treat a combination of lung and heart issues.

Doctors in this field complete medical school and then go on to complete a minimum of seven years of specialized training. They are board-certified in internal medicine. They then go onto complete three years of additional study in the respiratory system. This is a complex system and these specialists dedicate a large amount of time to mastering it.

Pulmonologists do not perform surgery but instead work more with diagnostics and nonsurgical treatment and maintenance. When a patient requires surgery, a thoracic surgeon will step in and perform the procedure. Both doctors will work closely together during this time. Pulmonologists do perform other invasive techniques, such as angiographic visualization, which allows them to get a more detailed view of the lungs' blood vessels.

Conditions a lung doctor treats

Not everyone who has a respiratory illness will need a lung doctor. For example, if you have an acute episode of bronchitis, you shouldn't need a specialist. You can often receive the right treatment from your family doctor. Now, those with more chronic and serious respiratory diseases are often referred to a pulmonologist for more focused care.

Infectious pulmonary diseases, such as tuberculosis, often benefit from a team of doctors that includes a pulmonologist and an infectious disease specialist. The doctors will work together to provide the necessary treatment to the patient.

A pulmonologist will treat other diseases, such as emphysema and asthma, without the help of other doctors. A lung doctor may also work with patients with HIV, which can result in pulmonary complications.

Finding the right pulmonologist

Finding the right pulmonologist

If you know that you'll need the services of a pulmonologist, contact your health insurance company to make sure that this medical specialty is covered. Depending on your policy, you may need a referral from your primary care physician in order for your policy to pay for treatment.

Read through the listing of lung doctors in the provider directory available from your health insurance company. Carefully research the specialists you are considering. Verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings from other patients.

Sleep medicine

Sleep medicine focuses on the study, evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and narcolepsy. Lack of sleep or sleep disorders can compound health problems, from raising blood pressure to increasing the risk of heart attack.

LEARN MORE: Angie's List Guide to Sleep Medicine

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