Pulmonology is the subspecialty of internal medicine concerned with diseases of the lungs and bronchial tubes, which often involves evaluation of the upper respiratory tract (nose, pharynx and throat) as well as the heart.
Pulmonologists must first complete seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training and become board certified in Internal Medicine. Then, for an additional two to three years, they study conditions specific to the respiratory system.
What pulmonologists do
Pulmonologists are specially trained in diseases and conditions of the chest, such as pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, or complicated chest infections.
When you need a pulmonologist
Not everyone who suffers from an acute respiratory condition or chronic respiratory diseases needs a pulmonologist. Many of these conditions can be managed by a general internist. Their skills are usually needed for patients with complex pulmonary problems, such as emphysema, tuberculosis, asthma, complicated infections of the chest, the pulmonary complications of AIDS, injury, and complications of respiratory diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
Does a pulmonologist perform surgery?
Major surgical procedures are performed by a thoracic surgeon. Yet pulmonologists often perform specialized procedures to obtain samples of the lining of the chest wall or of the lung itself. For example, they use flexible fiber optics to see inside the air passages and extract sample pieces for study. They also perform angiographic visualization — injecting dye into the pulmonary arteries to view the blood vessels in the lungs.