Respiratory medicine specialises in the airways, comprising the structure and function of the lungs and the organs through which air passes, such as the bronchi and the trachea.
The specialist in respiratory medicine can conduct many specialised forms of examination, using such optical instruments as endoscopes in the airways to locate the cause of breathing difficulties or to take tissue samples. He can check how the lungs are functioning and, if needed, arranges for X-rays to be taken of them.
An important aspect of his work is the treatment of asthma with drugs. He prescribes the appropriate medication and explains to the patient how to use it correctly. He will also teach asthmatics how to reduce the risk of an attack.
If lung conditions require surgery, the specialist in respiratory medicine will work together with the thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon. Constrictions caused by tumours can nowadays be removed using laser surgery, and it is also possible to insert prosthetics ('stents') into the airways in order to keep them open.
During the surgical treatment of lung disorders the specialist in respiratory medicine often works alongside an allergist.