Respiratory medicine (lung)
Spoken Languages


Professor Michael Polkey is a specialist in respiratory medicine with an interest in advanced respiratory disease and lung failure.  

He is an honorary professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College and a civilian advisor in respiratory medicine to the Ministry of Defence.

Areas of expertise

Professor Polkey's clinical interests include:

  • Emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD) – within this field Professor Polkey is particularly well known for his interests in non-pulmonary manifestations, including skeletal muscle weakness and cardiovascular disease.
  • Sleep disordered breathing, sleep apnoea and snoring.

  • Non-invasive mechanical ventilation and reducing patient dependence on invasive mechanical ventilation.

  • Skeletal muscle weakness in intensive care.
  • Diaphragm disease and measurement of diaphragm function.

  • Respiratory aspects of neurological disease, including ALS and Pompe’s disease.


Professor Polkey and his team train a number of overseas students at Royal Brompton Hospital, including junior doctors from as far afield as Greece, and Siberia.    

He is in demand globally as a speaker and has spoken at the American Thoracic Society, the European Respiratory Society and at the Asian Pacific Congress of Respirology. He has been visiting Professor in Lexington, Kentucky and in Doha, Qatar. 


The Medical Research Council-funded COPD MAP consortium has four subsections and Professor Polkey is co-chair of the section investigating aspects of COPD, particularly skeletal muscle weakness, which contribute to symptoms in COPD.

He is also co-principal investigator for a collaboration funded by the technology strategy board investigating the role of inflammation in manifestations, principally muscle and cardiovascular, which occur outside the lung in COPD.

Professor Polkey is the London investigator for a jointly funded EU / IMI group,PROactive COPD, which is developing a patient reported outcome tool for physical activity in COPD. He says: “New treatments for COPD are likely to give benefit in ways other than by expanding the airways. To measure the effects of these treatments we need new instruments like the one we are developing.”

He is a member of the COPD Foundation Biomarker's Consortium where he has an interest in exercise performance as a biomarker and outcome in COPD.  

Professor Polkey also has a close working relationship with the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease and has taken part in joint study visits and research projects. He has collaborated with Professor Luo from the Ministry on Physiological Studies looking at what happens to breathing muscles during sleep. With Professor Luo, he is a recipient of a grant award from the Chinese Ministry of Health.


Professor Polkey has been associate editor of the monthly European Respiratory Journal for over 10 years and remains in this function. He is also associate editor for Clinical Science  and sits on the editorial board of Skeletal Muscle and the COPD Journal. He reviews for all major respiratory journals and UK grant awarding bodies.

Private patient referral 

If you would like to make an appointment with this specialist for private care, contact the RB&HH Specialist care team

Research Publications


The clinical syndrome of heart failure includes exercise limitation that is not directly linked to measures of cardiac function.