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How Is Atelectasis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose atelectasis based on your signs and symptoms and the results from tests and procedures. Atelectasis might be detected as a result of a chest x ray done for an underlying lung condition.

Atelectasis usually is diagnosed by a radiologist, pulmonologist (lung specialist), emergency medicine physician, or a primary care doctor (such as a pediatrician, internal medicine specialist, or family practitioner).

Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

The most common test used to diagnose atelectasis is a chest x ray. A chest x ray is a painless test that creates pictures of the structures inside your chest, such as your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Your doctor also may recommend a chest computed tomography (to-MOG-rah-fee) scan, or chest CT scan. This test creates precise pictures of the structures in your chest. A chest CT scan is a type of x ray. However, the pictures from a chest CT scan show more details than pictures from a standard chest x ray.

Atelectasis often resolves without treatment. If the condition is severe or lasts a long time and your doctor thinks it's caused by an airway blockage, he or she may use bronchoscopy (bron-KOS-ko-pee). This procedure is used to look inside your airway.

During the procedure, your doctor passes a thin, flexible tube called a bronchoscope through your nose (or sometimes your mouth), down your throat, and into your airway. If you have a breathing tube, the bronchoscope can be passed through the tube to your airway.

A light and small camera on the bronchoscope allow your doctor to see inside your airway. Your doctor also can remove blockages during the procedure.

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June 1, 2010