Bronchiectasis (pronounced brong-key-EK-tuh-sis) is a condition in which the airways become widened, and mucus accumulates and pools in them. This pooling of mucus leads to a cycle of inflammation, infection, and progressive airway destruction. Bronchiectasis can be caused by recurrent or lingering lung infections, or by immune and genetic disorders. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases estimates that bronchiectasis affects about 110,000 people in the United States.
Common symptoms of bronchiectasis include persistent coughing that produces blood or mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, and weight loss. Patients with bronchiectasis can also experience flare-ups in which respiratory symptoms become much worse.
If you have symptoms of bronchiectasis, the specialists at Norton Thoracic Institute (NTI) will work to identify the cause of your illness and to develop a treatment plan that reduces ongoing airway destruction. At NTI, you may undergo one or more of the following diagnostic procedures:
- A thorough medical history and physical examination
- Blood tests to look for immune or genetic causes of bronchiectasis
- A CT scan of the chest to determine the location and degree of airway damage
- Sputum collection to look for presence of bacteria
- Lung function tests to assess the extent of airway damage.
At NTI, patients with bronchiectasis are closely monitored and receive early intervention. Our goal is to break the cycle of mucus pooling, inflammation, infection, and airway destruction by giving you aggressive airway clearance and antimicrobial therapies. Medications for patients with bronchiectasis may include the following:
- Inhaled medications:
- Bronchodilators to open the airways
- Inhaled steroids to reduce inflammation
- Inhaled hypertonic saline and mucolytics to loosen mucus
- Inhaled antibiotics to reduce bacteria in the airways.
- Airway clearance measures:
- Oscillating positive expiratory pressure devices (Aerobika, Acapella, flutter valve)
- High-frequency chest wall oscillation vests (The Vest, SmartVest)
- Postural drainage and clapping on the chest.
Sometimes, despite aggressive therapy, bronchiectasis can progress to respiratory failure that requires lung transplantation. The Norton Lung Transplant Center is the largest lung transplant center in the western United States. We pride ourselves on excellent clinical outcomes and continuity of care between pre-transplant and post-transplant care teams.
Living with Bronchiectasis
Although there is no cure for bronchiectasis, there is much you can do to manage your condition.
- Stay hydrated to keep airway mucus from becoming thick and sticky.
- See your doctor regularly, and be sure to take prescribed medications as instructed.
- If you smoke, quit now. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
- Avoid toxic fumes, gases, and other harmful substances.
- Stay up to date on pneumonia and flu vaccines.
- Talk to others about your diagnosis. Tell your friends and relatives how you feel and how they can help. Connect with other people who have bronchiectasis for support.
Learn More About Bronchiectasis Services at Norton Thoracic Institute
To learn more about our services, call (602) 406-4000.