Medical Specialists of the Respiratory System

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  • 0:04 Respiratory Medical…
  • 0:55 Otolaryngologist
  • 2:21 Pulmonologist
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will discuss the two different types of respiratory medical specialists patients may need to visit, depending on the respiratory problem at hand: an otolaryngologist or a pulmonologist.

Respiratory Medical Specialists

Let's pretend you're a family doctor. Today you have two patients who have come in for two different respiratory issues. One patient you suspect has COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a result of smoking and the other suffers from a chronic stuffy nose that despite all of your skill you just can't seem to resolve for some reason!

As a result, you want to refer them to a respiratory specialist for a more definitive diagnosis and specialized care. But which respiratory specialist do you choose? There are two medical specialists you can choose from, both of whom deal with the respiratory system, but different sections thereof. They are the otolaryngologist and the pulmonologist. Let's go over what they do.

The Otolaryngologist

Your first patient presented with complaints of a chronic stuffy nose you haven't been able to resolve. If that's the case, it may be best that you refer him to an oto(rhino)laryngologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases associated with the ear, nose and throat as well as adjacent structures of the head and neck. An otolaryngologist is more commonly called an ENT - for ear, nose and throat.

Oto indicates the ear, rhino means the nose (think of a rhinoceros to remember this), laryngo refers to the larynx and -ologist means the person is a specialist in a particular field. The field of otolaryngology has many sub-specialties, such as: rhinology, laryngology, allergy and more.

This particular patient, the one with the seemingly unresolvable stuffy nose, may need to be seen by an ENT who specializes in rhinology. Such a physician is someone that deals with just about anything that has to do with the nose and sinuses, like stuffy noses, sinus infections, nasal polyps and a lot more. Besides that, otolaryngologists deal with everything from a sore throat to cancers of the head and neck like laryngeal cancer and much more.

The Pulmonologist

Your other patient today had something going on that had to do with the lower respiratory tract, the lungs in particular. You suspect this patient has COPD. COPD is a respiratory condition that has:

  • Chronic airway inflammation
  • Scarring
  • Mucus production
  • Difficulty breathing

At its core. Classically, COPD encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

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