Pulmonology is the study of medicine associated with diseases of the lungs and bronchial tubes, which may also involve evaluation of the upper respiratory tract (nose, pharynx and throat) as well as the heart. Pulmonary care is any specialized care relating to the lungs. Pulmonology and is most often classified as an internal medicine subspecialty. Pulmonologists are often known as respiratory physicians.
Most simply put, a patient would see a pulmonologist for concerns related to lungs and breathing that fall outside the realm of primary care. Common issues a patient might be seen for include pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and other complicated chest infections. A pulmonologist may be closely related to critical care medicine for patients that require mechanical ventilation or for those who need to be on oxygen support.
Consultation, diagnoses and treatments from a pulmonology provider may include a variety of procedures: laboratory, spirometry (determination of lung volumes determined by breathing into a special machine), chest x-rays, CT scanning, sleep studies, medications, and more.
Not everyone who suffers from respiratory diseases and conditions needs treatment from a pulmonologist. Many conditions can be managed by a primary care provider. Care from a pulmonologist will generally be based on referral from a primary care physician or other type of specialist when complex pulmonary problems need further treatment or more specialized care.