Speak Up: How to Prepare for your Pulmonary Appointment

Doctor Reads Pulmonary Results

If your primary care physician has referred you to a pulmonologist to learn more about a problem you are experiencing with your lungs or breathing, you may be wondering what the next steps will be. Before your first appointment, it can help to understand a few essentials and to have some questions ready to discuss with your doctor.

To start off, a pulmonologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating and diagnosing disorders and diseases affecting the respiratory system. This can include the nose, mouth, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), windpipe (trachea), large airways (bronchi), small airways (bronchioles), and lungs.1  To determine an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan, your pulmonologist may order or conduct certain tests.

Two common types of tests are imaging tests and functional tests.

Imaging Tests are used to examine the details of internal structures within the lungs and chest and to determine if there are any structural issues that may be causing your symptoms. Common imaging tests include chest x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound.

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) are used to show how well the lungs are operating. Some common PFTs include spirometry, which measures lung capacity and airflow rate; pulse oximetry, which measures oxygen levels in the blood; and arterial blood gas tests, which measure the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

Here are a few sample questions you may wish to ask to help guide the conversation with your pulmonologist in advance of testing:

• Can you explain why the test is being performed?

• What steps does the test involve?

• Will I need any special preparation?

• How will I find out the results?

Once you receive a diagnosis and discuss a treatment plan with your pulmonologist, you may wish to ask some follow-up questions, such as:

• Will I need to make any lifestyle adjustments?

• How often should I have follow-up testing for any changes?

• What should I do if my symptoms worsen?

• What other tools or resources might be helpful?

Remember that you are an essential member of your own healthcare team. During your course of treatment, you may interact with a variety of medical professionals, including your primary care physician, pulmonologist, respiratory therapist, dietician, or exercise specialist. They are valuable resources to learn more about your condition, treatment, and community resources that may be available.

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pulmonary appointment

Additional Resources

1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21205-respiratory-system