Diagnosis of Chronic Bronchitis

How Your Doctor Forms a Diagnosis of Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a progressive lung disease that falls under the umbrella term of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A diagnosis of chronic bronchitis starts with a thorough medical history and physical examination. The presence of a productive, chronic cough that lasts three months out of the year for at least two years in a row should lead your doctor to suspect a diagnosis of chronic bronchitis.

Once your medical information and physical examination are complete, your doctor may conduct the following tests to confirm your diagnosis:


Pneumology consultation man
Getty Images/BSIP

Pulmonary function testing, namely spirometry, determines the presence and amount of airflow obstruction present in chronic bronchitis. A spirometry test can be performed in your doctor's office, the hospital, or a health care clinic, and is the primary tool for diagnosing chronic bronchitis and other forms of COPD.



Pneumonia. Photo courtesy of Flickr.com, user DHeitkamp

Although a chest X-ray is not a definitive tool for diagnosing chronic bronchitis, your doctor will probably order one to help confirm your diagnosis. A chest X-ray is also an excellent tool for confirming the presence of certain lung infections like pneumonia, which can lead to an exacerbation of COPD.



Arterial Blood Gases
Arterial Blood Gases. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Joe Raedle

Arterial blood gases (ABGs) are laboratory tests performed on blood taken from an artery. ABGs measure how well your lungs provide oxygen to your cells and tissues and remove carbon dioxide from your body.



White and red blood cells
White and red blood cells. Getty Images/Ryan Etter

A complete blood count, or CBC, is a routine blood test that provides your doctor with important information about the types and amounts of blood cells in your body. It can also help the doctor determine if you have an infection. 


Sputum Culture

Sputum Culture
Coughing: A Common Symptom of Chronic Bronchitis. Photo courtesy of Istockphoto.com, user David Freund

People with chronic bronchitis are prone to frequent lung infections. A sputum culture is a diagnostic test that is used to confirm the presence of bacteria in your sputum, which indicates the presence of a lung infection.