What types of doctors diagnose and treat COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)?

Your “regular” doctor or general practitioner may make the diagnosis and provide the care you need. When necessary, you may also be referred to a medical specialist (a doctor with advanced training) for further evaluation. These specialists include:

  • Pulmonologists (who are also internists), who specialize in caring for people with lung and other respiratory diseases
  • Internists, doctors who specialize in caring for adults and may also have advanced training in pulmonary disease
    • Your primary care provider (PCP, “regular” doctor) may be an internist.
    • Thoracic surgeons (also called cardiothoracic surgeons), who perform surgical diagnostic and treatment procedures inside the chest (thorax)


  • For a person with suspected COPD, a thoracic surgeon may do an open biopsy (removal of a small amount of lung tissue for laboratory analysis).
  • Someone with severe COPD may be referred to a thoracic surgeon for lung surgery.
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists
    • A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.
    • A psychologist is not a medical doctor but typically holds an advanced degree in an area of mental and/or emotional health.
    • A person with COPD who is trying to stop smoking may see a psychiatrist or psychologist for help with depression or anxiety.