Thoracic Medicine

Thoracic medicine investigates, treats and provides ongoing management of conditions affecting your chest and lungs.

These include common airway conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchiectasis; lung circulation diseases including pulmonary vascular disease; lung tissue diseases like pulmonary fibrosis; lung infections including pneumonia and tuberculosis; and lung cancer.

What is a Thoracic Medicine?

Thoracic medicine is a diverse speciality that diagnoses, treats and provides ongoing care for conditions affecting the thorax area of your body, otherwise known as your chest.

These can be diseases of your lung, the lining of your lung and the chest wall itself. It includes asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Sometimes thoracic medicine is called chest medicine, pulmonary medicine or respiratory medicine

Why have I been referred to thoracic medicine?

If you’ve been referred to thoracic medicine, you will have symptoms such as breathlessness, a cough or wheezing or an abnormal chest x-ray. Your doctor will refer you to a thoracic specialist if they feel your symptoms need further investigation.

A referral to a specialist respiratory clinic, can investigate a possible a chest problem which could include asthma through to cancer.

What are the most common diseases of the respiratory system?

There are many respiratory conditions. Some are very common and some are rare. The most common diseases of the respiratory system include:

  • Asthma – is a very common airway disease where your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. It can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – is a common lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. There are two main forms of COPD and most people have a combination of both:
    • Chronic bronchitis – is a long-term inflammation of your bronchi that is common among smokers. Sufferers often get lung infections more easily and have episodes of acute bronchitis, when symptoms are worse.
    • Emphysema - the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs become damaged over time and can lead to a lack of oxygen in the blood (hypoxia) and a build-up of toxic waste products.
  • Bronchiectasis – is when the large airways in your lungs are damaged and it causes them to become permanently wider.
  • Lung cancer and mesothelioma – lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It can develop as small cell lung cancer or the more common non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Cystic fibrosis – is an inherited condition that is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children and young adults. It causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in your lungs. This can result in life-threatening lung infections and serious digestion problems.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) – is a bacterial lung infection that is potentially serious but can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Pneumonia – is a lung infection, usually bacterial, that causes inflammation in your air sacs in one or both lungs.
  • Pulmonary vascular disease – causes problems with the circulatory blood vessels of your lungs.
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) - scarring or thickening of your lungs makes them unable to expand fully and difficult to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.
  • Pleural effusion – often known as “water on the lungs,” this condition is caused by the build-up of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura outside your lungs.
  • Sleep apnoea – a sleep disorder where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts. People often snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night's sleep.
  • Sarcoidosis – is a lung tissue disease that causes inflammation of the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin, and/or other tissues.

What happens at a thoracic medicine appointment?

We offer specialist services on referral for a thoracic medicine appointment.

Typically, your doctor will examine a particular area of your chest and take tissue and fluid samples. They may refer you for diagnostic tests based on your symptoms and their findings.

You may also be referred to our lung cancer and mesothelioma team or a tuberculosis nurse specialist who will investigate your symptoms and perform relevant diagnostic tests.

What is thoracic medicine used for?

Thoracic medicine is used to diagnose, treat and care for lung and chest conditions.

What does a thoracic medicine specialist do?

A thoracic medicine specialist will investigate, diagnose, treat and provide ongoing care for patients with lung and chest diseases and disorders.

They assess patients in an outpatient respiratory clinic including referring them for diagnostic tests as required. Tests may include lung function tests, chest X-rays, CT and MRI scans, Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scanning), CT-guided lung biopsies and sleep studies.

In a specialist respiratory clinic, a thoracic medicine specialist will care for a range of chest conditions including asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis cancer, cystic fibrosis, lung tissue scarring, pulmonary vascular disorders, sleep-related breathing disorders, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Thoracic medicine specialists deliver care for people with acute respiratory disease and specialist care for diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, pulmonary vascular diseases or lung transplant.

A thoracic medicine specialist may practise general respiratory medicine or choose a sub-specialist interest such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer or sleep-disordered breathing.

What are the costs of thoracic medicine?

The costs of a thoracic medicine will depend on the diagnostic tests required, your condition and the best treatment for it, whether ongoing care is required, and your Ramsay hospital of choice.

You will receive a formal quotation price after your consultation with one of our thoracic specialists. This formal quote for your thoracic medicine will be valid for 60 days.

We have a number of finance options if you are paying for your thoracic medicine yourself. These include:

  • Interest-free finance – requires no deposit and you can make monthly instalments at 0% interest.
  • All-inclusive Total Care – is a one-off payment at a pre-agreed price.
  • Pay as you go – a flexible funding option if costs are difficult to assess or you want to pay for your costs as and when they arise.

Thoracic medicine may be covered by your medical insurance policy. We advise that you obtain written confirmation from your insurance before proceeding with your thoracic medicine.

What is the recovery process of thoracic medicine?

The recovery process for thoracic medicine will depend on your condition and the treatment you receive.

As some thoracic conditions are lifelong diseases or disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis and sleep apnoea, you may not recover as such. It may be a matter of finding the most comfortable way to live with your condition. You may require ongoing care to support you.

If you have lung cancer, your recovery will depend on the stage of your cancer and the recommended treatment. You may require radiotherapy or chemotherapy and it can take several months to a year to recover and feel normal again.

You may require thoracic surgery to treat lung cancer and some lung and chest diseases such as emphysema, pneumonia and pleural effusion. If you have a lung transplant you will be in intensive care for up to a week and it takes three to six months to fully recover.

Thoracic Medicine at Ramsay Health Care

Ramsay Health Care provides rapid access to a wide range of diagnostic services and ongoing management of conditions affecting the lungs including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, bronchiectasis, tuberculosis, and more unusual conditions.

Our expert consultant chest physicians are supported by a multidisciplinary team of specialist nurses, physiotherapists and respiratory physiologists.

We offer both inpatient and outpatient services for most respiratory conditions. Ramsay hospitals are equipped with the latest diagnostic facilities. You can rest assured an experienced diagnostic team will accurately perform your required tests to investigate your chest and breathing symptoms.

Ramsay offers a fast-track service for patients with suspected lung cancer. We provide caring and comprehensive cancer treatment including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Patients who require surgery are seamlessly referred to our highly experienced thoracic surgeons.

Our hospitals provide specialist care for diseases such as cystic fibrosis, pulmonary vascular diseases or lung transplant.

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