Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor will start by asking about your medical history and doing a physical exam, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal bubbling or crackling sounds that indicate the presence of thick liquid.

If pneumonia is suspected, your doctor may recommend:

  • Chest X-rays, to confirm the presence of pneumonia and determine the extent and location of the infection.
  • Blood tests, to confirm the presence of infection and to try to identify the type of organism causing the infection. Precise identification occurs in only about half of people with pneumonia.
  • Pulse oximetry, to measure the oxygen level in your blood. Pneumonia can prevent your lungs from moving enough oxygen into your bloodstream.
  • Sputum test. A sample of fluid from yours lungs (sputum) is taken after a deep cough, and analyzed to pinpoint the type of infection.

If you are older than age 65, are in the hospital or have serious symptoms or an underlying health condition, your doctor may recommend:

  • Pleural fluid culture. A fluid sample is taken from the pleural area and analyzed to help determine the type of infection.
  • Bronchoscopy. A thin, flexible tube with a camera is inserted down your throat and through your airways to check whether something is blocking the airways or whether something else is contributing to your pneumonia.

If your pneumonia isn't clearing as quickly as expected, your doctor may recommend a chest CT scan to obtain a more detailed image of your lungs.

May. 21, 2013

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