Acquired bronchiectasis; Congenital bronchiectasis; Chronic lung disease - bronchiectasis
Bronchiectasis is a disease in which the large airways in the lungs are damaged. This causes the airways to become permanently wider.
Bronchiectasis can be present at birth or infancy or develop later in life.
Bronchiectasis is often caused by inflammation or infection of the airways that keeps coming back.
Sometimes it begins in childhood after having a severe lung infection or inhaling a foreign object. Breathing in food particles can also lead to this condition.
Other causes of bronchiectasis can include:
Symptoms develop over time. They may occur months or years after the event that causes the bronchiectasis.
Long-term (chronic) cough with large amounts of foul smelling sputum is the main symptom of bronchiectasis. Other symptoms may include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. When listening to the chest with a stethoscope, the provider may hear small clicking, bubbling, wheezing, rattling, or other sounds, usually in the lower lungs.
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment is aimed at:
Daily drainage to remove sputum is part of treatment. A respiratory therapist can show the person coughing exercises that will help.
Medicines are often prescribed. These include:
Surgery to remove (resect) the lung may be needed if medicine does not work and the disease is in a small area, or if the person has a lot of bleeding in the lungs. It is more commonly considered if there is no genetic or acquired predisposition to bronchiectasis (for example, more likely to consider if there is bronchiectasis in one segment of the lung only because of prior obstruction).
In severe cases, lung transplantation might be needed.
The outlook depends on the specific cause of the disease. With treatment, most people live without major disability and the disease progresses slowly.
Complications of bronchiectasis may include:
Contact your provider if:
You can reduce your risk by promptly treating lung infections.
Childhood vaccines a yearly flu vaccine, and COVID-19 vaccines help reduce the chance of some infections. Avoiding upper respiratory infections, smoking, and pollution may also reduce your risk of getting this infection.
Chang AB, Redding GJ. Bronchiectasis and chronic suppurative lung disease. In: Wilmott RW, Deterding R, Li A, et al, eds. Kendig's Disorders of the Respiratory Tract in Children. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 26.
O'Donnell AE. Bronchiectasis, atelectasis, cysts, and localized lung disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 84.
Solomon GM, Chan ED. Bronchiectasis. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 69.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 7/31/2022
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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