Tracheal Diseases: Diagnosis of Tracheal Diseases

Tracheal and bronchial diseases can be difficult to diagnose. Early signs and symptoms may progress slowly over time and are often mistaken for a variety of other respiratory disorders, such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

If you have symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, or wheezing, our doctors will perform a comprehensive evaluation, including a review of your medical history and a physical examination. Following this evaluation, a number of additional tests may be used to confirm your diagnosis and stabilize your airway:

Three-Dimensional Chest CT Scan — We have developed a CT-scanning technique that enables us to see a three-dimensional view of the airway. This technique is effective in determining both the underlying cause and the extent of tracheal diseases.

Laryngoscopy — A flexible, narrow tube that has a tiny camera on the tip (called an endoscope) is inserted through the nose to examine the larynx and the upper portion of the airway. This can typically be performed in the doctor’s office under topical anesthesia.

Bronchoscopy — A rigid or flexible tube that has a tiny camera on the tip (called a bronchoscope) is inserted through the nose or mouth into the airway to examine the trachea and bronchi.

Video

In a virtual bronchosopy, special high-resolution CT scans are used to examine the airways noninvasively.

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Biopsy — A small sample of tracheal or bronchial tissue is removed through a bronchoscope. A pathologist then examines the tissue under a microscope to establish a diagnosis.

In addition, our experts often measure your respiratory function with the following tests:

Pulmonary Function Test — This test measures how much air you can inhale and exhale. You will take a deep breath and exhale as hard as you can into a mouthpiece that is attached to a machine. The test is used to assess lung function, and can help your doctor determine the location of certain types of airway blockages.

Six-Minute Walk Test — For this test, you will walk back and forth on a hard, flat surface as quickly and as far as possible for six minutes. Your heart rate and oxygen level will be monitored. The test is used to measure endurance.

Your doctor will use the results of these tests and your medical history to make an accurate diagnosis and select the most-effective treatments for your tracheal disease.