Questions to ask your doctor

Did you know most people with
NTM also have Bronchiectasis?

These sample questions are meant to be a guideline of the types of questions you may want to ask your doctor. Sometimes it is helpful to have a list so you don’t forget. It might help to bring someone with you to your appointment if you are especially anxious. You may want to take a tape recorder with you, but you should first ask your doctor’s permission to use it. These questions were written from a patient’s perspective and are not intended as medical advice.

1. What strain(s) of mycobacteria do I have? Where in my lungs are the mycobacteria located?

2. Was drug sensitivity performed? (If not, can it be done while the sample is still viable?)

3. What drugs will I be taking? What is the dosing level for each medication? Can and should therapeutic drug levels be checked?

4. When and how do I take my medication?

5. How long do you expect me to be on the medications?

6. What side effects will I be likely to have? Which side effects should be reported immediately? Do you have any suggestions for coping with side effects?

7. Will IV drugs be necessary?

8. Will I also need inhalers?

9. Should I use an acapella or other airway clearance device? How often?

10. What monitoring will I need? (See examples below)

11. Can I still take over the counter medicines/vitamins/supplements? (Be sure to tell your doctor about ALL nutritional supplements, herbs, or over the counter products that you take. These can interact with your medicines, or decrease their effectiveness.)

12. Would I be a candidate for surgery? Why or why not?

13. What if I lose my appetite?

14. What if I feel depressed?

15. Can I exercise? What kind of exercise?

16. What precautions should I take? What activities should I avoid?

17. How often will I have:  Follow up appointments with you?  X-rays/ CT scans?  Lab work?  Hearing or vision tests? (Try to have hearing and vision tests done before starting your medications so they will have a baseline by which to judge any changes.) Sputum cultures?

Some examples of the type of monitoring that may be needed:

You will likely need regular lab work (CBC, CMP). Some side effects are especially common with certain antibiotics and need their own specific tests. Consult your physician regarding how often monitoring is recommended for you, and notify them immediately if you notice any changes. This is only a partial list:

  • Clarithromycin – hearing and balance as directed by your doctor
  • Azithromycin – hearing, balance and heart as directed by your doctor
  • Amikacin – hearing and balance every 2-4 weeks / drug levels and kidney function every 1-2 weeks or as directed by your doctor
  • Ethambutol – color vision and visual acuity – monthly

Other things to consider:

  • Request and keep copies of all your lab work
  • Keep your x-ray/CT scan films yourself, or consider having them done where they can be put on a CD

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You can also find a discussion guide to help start a conversation with your doctor at