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Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory Therapy provides relief to millions of Americans, from newborns to the elderly, who have difficulty breathing or cannot breathe on their own due to impaired or nonfunctioning lungs. Typical patients of respiratory care therapists suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, lung cancer, stroke, drowning accidents, heart attacks, birth defects, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, or sleep apnea.

Trauma victims and surgery patients are also treated by respiratory therapists. In addition to treatment, respiratory care also includes education and rehabilitation services, plus diagnostic testing.


Here are some of the things respiratory therapists do:

  • Use life support mechanical ventilation for patients who need it.
  • Administer medications in aerosol form.
  • Monitor equipment and patients’ responses to therapy.
  • Obtain blood specimens and analyze to determine levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases.
  • Maintain artificial airways (tracheostomy or intubation).
  • Measure the capacity of patients’ lungs to determine if there is impairment.
  • Obtain and analyze sputum specimens and chest X-rays.
  • Interpret data from tests.
  • Assess vital signs and other indicators of respiratory dysfunction.
  • Perform stress tests and other studies of the cardiopulmonary system.
  • Study disorders of people with disruptive sleep patterns.
  • Conduct rehabilitation activities.
  • Lead asthma education and smoking cessation programs.