Diagnosing Respiratory Infections

Healthcare providers use different procedures when diagnosing upper or lower respiratory tract infections. Some infections are simple to diagnose and don’t require extensive testing. However, others are harder to diagnose and tend to be misdiagnosed. It is for this reason that healthcare providers to different steps to give an accurate diagnosis.

Tests and Procedures

Your healthcare provider uses one or more of these tests and procedures to diagnose your respiratory infection:

  • Bronchoscopy. bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows your healthcare provider to assess your airways. A flexible tube (endoscope or bronchoscope) with a light and camera at the end goes into your airways; allowing your healthcare provider to visually assess your airways for any injuries, obstruction, or blockages. 
  • Chest Radiography (aka Chest x-ray). chest x-ray is a common imaging procedure that gives healthcare providers a visual image of your chest and lungs. Healthcare providers use chest x-rays to identify abnormalities with your chest or lungs, such as blockages or obstructions.
  • Clinical Evaluation. Healthcare providers can diagnose some respiratory conditions based on one or more symptoms, like the common cold. 
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan. CT scan is another imaging procedure that allows healthcare providers to diagnose conditions quickly. When used for diagnosing respiratory infections, CT scans provide a visual image of some of your respiratory structures, like your lungs. CT scans are x-ray based exams; thus, there is radiation exposure. 
  • Medical Tests. Medical tests, such as blood and sputum cultures or samples, help your healthcare provider to determine the presence of viral or bacterial antibodies. 
  • Nasal Samples and Specimens. nasal swab or specimen helps your healthcare provider determine the presence of viral or bacterial antibodies. Your body produces antibodies to fight off an infection. Therefore, any antibodies, identified through the sample indicate an infection.
  • Spirometry. Spirometry is a breathing test that measures the amount of air you can bring in and force out of your lungs and the speed at which you do it. A spirometry test gives your healthcare provider information about your breathing patterns and can identify airway inflammation.