Pulmonary Defined

Understanding the Medical Term Pulmonary

Pulmonary, lungs, breathing, pulmonary disease
Normal Heart & Lung Anatomy. Image: ADAM

Definition: The word pulmonary means "pertaining to the lungs." It is derived from the Latin root word pulmo, which means lung.  If someone has pulmonary disease, this means they have a lung disease, and that may affect their ability to breathe well.  

Pulmonary Treatment

Pulmonary disease is often treated by a pulmonologist, a specialist in the treatment of lung and breathing issues ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to lung cancer.

Pulmonologists do not perform lung surgeries, but they may perform lung procedures, such as a bronchoscopy, a procedure that allows a medical professional to visualize the inside of the lungs.  If surgery is needed, pulmonary problems are typically addressed by a cardiopulmonary surgeon.  

Other conditions that are acute, such as a pulmonary embolism, may be treated by hospitalists, intensivists or other physicians. 

Pulmonary Function Tests

To determine if an individual is experiencing pulmonary problems, one of the first things that is typically done is pulmonary function tests.  This is a group of tests that requires you to blow into a small device called a spirometer.  

For some tests, you will have your normal breathing measured.  For others, you may be required to exhale forcefully, or to attempt to empty your lungs of air.  You may be given an inhaled medication after these tests, then perform the tests again to determine if the medication was effective.


If you already take breathing medications, you may be asked to skip your dose prior to having these tests to determine your baseline lung function. 

Also Known As: lungs, lung, breathing, pulmonology

Common Misspellings: pulmunary

Examples: The pulmonary arteries and veins transport blood between the heart and lungs.

Pulmonary disease is often caused by exposure to cigarette smoke, as well as industrial materials such as asbestos. 

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