As your COPD is diagnosed, treated and managed, you may encounter the following doctors and specialists:
General Practitioner: This doctor is involved in the daily general care of the patient. General practitioners are typically the first healthcare provider that the patient sees and will often provide a referral to a specialist as warranted.
Pulmonologist: Specialist physician that focuses on conditions of the respiratory tract and respiratory diseases (lung or breathing problems). Most patients with COPD will need to see this specialist. Besides treating the lungs, a pulmonologist will figure out the supplemental oxygen needs of the patient, if necessary.
Cardiothoracic Surgeon: Also known as thoracic surgeons, this doctor focuses on the surgical diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving the chest (thorax). Thoracic surgeons get involved in diagnosing COPD when a bronchoscopy is necessary. Cardiothoracic surgeons are also consulted when a patient suffering from severe COPD needs more extensive lung surgery.
Respiratory Therapists: These specialists are not usually MD certified, but they can be included in the patient’s care team. Respiratory therapists concentrate on treating breathing disorders such as COPD, asthma and bronchitis. They utilize mechanical ventilators and oxygen therapy to increase the lung function of the patient.
Psychiatrists/Psychologists – For the COPD patient, a psychiatrist or psychologist can assist in the smoking withdrawal symptoms or aid in smoking cessation as well as any ensuing depression.