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Alternative Names Return to topAcquired bronchiectasis; Congenital bronchiectasis
Definition Return to top
Bronchiectasis is destruction and widening of the large airways.
Causes Return to top
Bronchiectasis is often caused by recurrent inflammation or infection of the airways. It most often begins in childhood as a complication from infection or inhaling a foreign object.
Cystic fibrosis causes about half of all bronchiectasis in the United States. Recurrent, severe lung infections (pneumonia, tuberculosis, fungal infections), abnormal lung defenses, and obstruction of the airway by a foreign body or tumor are some of the risk factors.
The condition can also be caused by routinely breathing in food particles while eating.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms often develop gradually, and may occur months or years after the event that causes the bronchiectasis.
They may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
When listening to the chest with a stethoscope, the doctor may hear small clicking, bubbling, wheezing, rattling, or other sounds, usually in the lower lobes of the lungs.
Tests may include:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment is aimed at controlling infections and bronchial secretions, relieving airway obstruction, and preventing complications.
Regular, daily drainage to remove bronchial secretions is a routine part of treatment. A respiratory therapist can show the patient coughing exercises that will help.
Antibiotics, bronchodilators, and expectorants are often prescribed for infections.
Surgery to resect the lung may be needed if medicine does not work or if the patient has massive bleeding.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
With treatment, most people can lead normal lives without major disability.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
The risk may be reduced if lung infections are promptly treated.
Childhood vaccinations and a yearly flu vaccine help reduce the chance of some infections. Avoiding upper respiratory infections, smoking, and pollution may also reduce your risk of infection.
References Return to top
Barker AF. Bronchiectasis, atelectasis, cysts, and localized lung disorders. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 90.Update Date: 9/24/2008 Updated by: Benjamin Medoff, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.