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Pulmonary Medicine

Virtua pulmonary specialists treat many conditions related to breathing.  They are experts in the respiratory track and the lungs in particular.  Pulmonologists care for common conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well fibrosis, infectious lung diseases, and other health and medical problems that affect respiration.


Virtua pulmonologists offer careful evaluation and treatment for this all-too-common condition.  Asthma is a reaction of the immune system that causes mucous congestion and spasms in the breathing track.  It can range from mild to life threatening.  What causes certain people to develop the disease is not completely understood, but some individuals have a sensitivity to allergic-type reactions within their airways.

Because of the prevalence of breathing conditions, Virtua has expanded its staff of highly trained and experienced pulmonologists.

The Virtua specialists use thorough review of symptom history and, often, testing to assess lung function in asthma cases.  These tests determine how much air moves in and out as an asthma sufferer breathes.  Special diagnostics may also include an asthma challenge test, in which the team induces an asthma attack and measures lung capacity during the attack.  This is done under safe and controlled circumstances, and helps determine the severity of the asthma.

Anatomy of bronchiImage courtesy Wikimedia Commons: Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator; C. Carl Jaffe, MD, cardiologist            Illustration of the anatomy of bronchi (breathing tubes and pouches within the lungs), showing also alveoli (air-exchange sacks) and blood circulation to these areas.

Asthma evaluation may also involve allergen testing.  This means identifying what substance or factor in the individual’s environment causes or contributes to asthma attacks. This may also mean referral for a consultation with an allergist/immunologist.

Many types of medications are available today to treat asthma, including daily medications and as-needed inhalers.  Virtua pulmonary specialists work with the patient and family to find a treatment plan — which may include lifestyle adjustments — that minimizes health risk from asthma and the impact of the condition on the patient’s abilities and activities.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease represents a group of conditions caused by ongoing inflammation of, and/or long-term damage to, the respiratory track, in particular the lungs.   Patients suffer from coughing, mucus, and wheezing, and reduced breathing and cardiovascular capacity.

Emphysema is the best known of these conditions.  Typically, patients have been exposed to health and environmental factors that have gradually scarred or otherwise weakened their respiratory system.  Long-term exposure to irritating gases or fine particle matter, most often from cigarette smoke, is the typical cause.

Chronic bronchitis is another form of COPD.  Individuals with this condition have repeated inflammation of the bronchi, the tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs.

The Virtua staff uses an assessment of the patient’s exposure history and current respiratory symptoms to help establish the diagnosis.  Staff members take advantage of radiologic imaging and tests of breathing capacity to determine the seriousness of the COPD.  They have special expertise in identifying the right from of treatment for each patient, among the many types of medications, therapies, and interventions that can be used for this condition.  The Virtua staff is also highly experienced in recommending a course of care than can include lifestyle adjustments, activity guidelines, and medications to reduce the severity of obstructive attacks.

Virtua pulmonologists also care for patients with other conditions that affect breathing, such as:

  • ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome)
  • acute bronchitis
  • chronic cough
  • cystic fibrosis
  • lung cancer
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • occupational lung diseases
  • pleural effusion
  • pneumonia and complicated chest infections
  • sarcoidosis

Pulmonologists may also use endoscopes to diagnose and treat lung diseases.  Such procedures include bronchoscopy, in which the specialist advances a flexible scope through the patient’s mouth and down the windpipe to take video images inside the lungs — and sometimes to sample mucus or tissue or to open airways with different techniques.

The Virtua team has long cared for groups of patients for whom respiratory diseases are more common, including children, urban populations, smokers, and those with severe allergies or workplace exposures.  But asthma, COPD, and other airway conditions know no boundaries and remain a serious public health concern.  No one should let these sometimes-dangerous or disabling diseases go undiagnosed or untreated.  Early intervention can make a difference in outcome.  The Virtua team is ready for consultation and care, whenever these conditions are a concern.

When pulmonary symptoms or challenges may be related to cancer or cancer treatment, Virtua pulmonologists work with the cancer specialists in the Virtua thoracic surgery service.

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