Your doctor will ask about your symptoms. If symptoms suggest pneumonia, your doctor will ask about your medical history, travel history, and other related exposures. A physical exam usually includes tapping on your chest and back. This may identify the presence of fluid or air trapped in your lungs. The doctor will also listen carefully to your chest and back with a stethoscope.
Your doctor may choose to order a variety of tests, such as:
Imaging tests are used to evaluate the lungs and surrounding tissues. Pneumonia may be detected through imaging, though there are times when it may not show up.
Canadian Critical Care Trials Group. A randomized trail of diagnostic techniques for ventilator-associated pneumonia. N Engl J Med. 2006;355(25):2619-2630.
Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 25, 2013. Accessed April 3, 2013.
Community-acquired pneumonia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 18, 2013. Accessed April 3, 2013.
Diagnosing and treating pneumonia. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia/diagnosing-and-treating.html. Accessed October 3, 2012.
How is pneumonia diagonosed? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pnu/diagnosis. Updated March 1, 2011. Accessed October 3, 2012.
Lutfiyya MN, Henley E, Chang LF, Reyburn SW. Diagnosis and treatment of community-acquired pneumonia. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(3):442-450.
Mayer J. Laboratory diagnosis of nosocomial pneumonia. Semin Respir Infect. 2000;15(2):119-131.
Murphy, CG, van de Pol, Harper MB, Bachur RG. Clinical predictors of occult pneumonia in the febrile child. Acad Emerg Med. 2007; 4:(3)243-249.
6/17/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Reissig A, Copetti R, Mathis G, et al. Lung ultrasound in the diagnosis and follow-up of community-acquired pneumonia: a prospective, multicenter diagnostic accuracy study. Chest. 2012;142(4):965-972.
Last reviewed June 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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