Diagnosis Pulmonology

Nontuberculous Mycobacteria

In making a diagnosis of nontuberculous mycobacteria, your doctor will first start by conducting a thorough physical examination, recording your medical history and asking about any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Diagnosing NTM may be difficult because symptoms often resemble those caused by other health conditions, such as tuberculosis (TB). If a patient does have NTM, it is important to determine which type of bacteria is causing the condition.

The following tests may be also be conducted to make a definite diagnosis:

  • High Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT) This is a special type of CT scan that provides your doctor with high-resolution images of your lungs. Having a HRCT is no different than having a regular CT scan; they both are performed on an open-air table and take only a few minutes.
  • Sputum Culture Several samples of your sputum will be tested in a specialized lab to check for NTM bacteria.
  • Bronchoscopy This test involves passing a flexible fiberoptic scope, about the diameter of a pencil, into the lungs to obtain fluid and sometimes tissue samples to aid in diagnosis. This test is an outpatient procedure, which means you do not have to stay overnight in the hospital, and is performed by your doctor.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.