Diagnosis of bronchitis is based on observing the patient’s symptoms and health history. The physician listens to the patient’s chest with a stethoscope for specific sounds that indicate lung inflammation, such as moist rales and crackling, and wheezing, that indicates airway narrowing. Moist rales is a bubbling sound heard with a stethoscope that is caused by fluid secretion in the bronchial tubes.
If the sputum is green or has blood in it a sputum culture is done to determine whether a bacterial infection is present and to identify the disease-causing organism so that an appropriate antibiotic can be selected. The doctor uses the sputum for the test.
Occasionally, in diagnosing a chronic lung disorder, the sample of sputum is collected using a procedure called a bronchoscopy. In this procedure, the patient is given a local anesthetic, and a tube is passed into the airways to collect a sputum sample.
A pulmonary function test is important in diagnosing chronic bronchitis. This test uses an instrument called a spirometer to measure the volume of air entering and leaving the lungs. The test is done in the doctor’s office and is painless. It involves breathing into the spirometer mouthpiece either normally or forcefully
To better determine what type of obstructive lung disease a patient has, the doctor may do a chest x ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), and blood tests. An electrocardiogram is an instrument that is used to measure the electrical activity of the heart and is useful in the diagnosis of heart conditions. Other tests may be used to measure how effectively oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in the lungs.