Diagnostic studies

1. The appearance of sputum is not predictive of whether a bacterial infection is present. Purulent sputum is most often caused by viral infections.Microscopic examination or culture of sputum generally is not helpful. Since most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses, cultures are usually negative or exhibit normal respiratory flora. When M. pneumoniae or C. pneumoniae infection is present, routine sputum cultures are still negative.

2. Acute bronchitis can cause transient pulmonary function abnormalities which resemble asthma. Therefore, to diagnose asthma, changes that persist after the acute phase of the illness must be documented. When pneumonia is suspected, chest radiographs and pulse oximetry may be helpful.

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