Top 10 conditions for pulmonologist visits

The human respiratory system is surprisingly versatile. It not only enables us to breathe, but it also helps us talk, smell, and maintain body temperature. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. experience diseases and illnesses related to the respiratory tract each year.

In observance of Healthy Lung Month, we put together a list of the most frequent reasons for patient visits to pulmonologists in 2021.

Respiratory conditions with the most pulmonologist visits

Rank ICD-10 Code ICD-10 Description Percent of pulmonologist visits
1 J449 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, unspecified 8.9%
2 J069 Acute upper respiratory infection, unspecified 7.0%
3 J301 Allergic rhinitis due to pollen 5.9%
4 J9601 Acute respiratory failure with hypoxia 5.4%
5 J029 Acute pharyngitis, unspecified 5.1%
6 J45909 Unspecified asthma, uncomplicated 4.8%
7 J3089 Other allergic rhinitis 4.8%
8 J189 Pneumonia, unspecified organism 3.8%
9 J309 Allergic rhinitis, unspecified 3.6%
10 J1282 Pneumonia due to coronavirus disease 2019 3.0%

Fig. 1 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare ClaimsMx product for calendar year 2021. Claims data is sourced from multiple medical claims clearinghouses in the United States and is updated monthly. Data is accurate as of September 2022.

Which respiratory condition had the most patient visits?

ICD-10 code J449 (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, unspecified) was responsible for the most patients, making up 8.9% of all respiratory patient visits in 2021. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases that block airflow and cause breathing problems. It's unsurprising that COPD tops the list, as this condition affects more than 15 million people in the U.S.

In second place was J069 (acute upper respiratory infection, unspecified), with 7.0% of patient visits. This code refers to the common cold, one of the most prevalent illnesses in the U.S.

Placing third was J301 (allergic rhinitis due to pollen), with 5.9% of patient visits. This finding also comes as no surprise since allergic rhinitis—or seasonal allergies—affects up to 60 million people in the U.S. each year. Although COPD is less prevalent than seasonal allergies, it’s likely higher on the list because it is a more severe condition. COPD patients tend to see their pulmonologists more regularly, with some experts suggesting visits around three times per year.

What is a pulmonologist?

Pulmonology is a medical specialty dedicated to the respiratory tract. Pulmonologists and other healthcare providers work to diagnose and treat diseases related to the lungs and other respiratory system organs like the trachea and nose.

What are the signs of respiratory disease?

Respiratory conditions can present with many different symptoms, including:

  • Tiredness
  • Chronic coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Snoring

What is a pulmonary function test?

A pulmonary function test (PFT) noninvasively examines lung capacity, volume, gas exchange, and rates of flow. PFTs can be done by either spirometry or plethysmography. Generally speaking, these tests indicate how well the lungs work.

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