Bronchiectasis is a disease of the large and medium sized airways. It can result from severe infections, a weakened immune system , or genetic problems, such as cystic fibrosis. Over time, the airways become enlarged and secretions collect. A productive cough is the major symptom of this disease. As dilated airways cannot effectively clear the thick secretions, bacterial infections are a recurrent problem. As the disease progresses, patients complain of worsening shortness of breath and occasionally coughing up blood (hemoptysis). The airways can become infected with difficult-to-treat bacteria or other pathogens.
Bronchiectasis is diagnosed by taking a history, breathing tests (spirometry), and special X-ray studies such as high resolution CT scans of the chest. Sputum studies and specialized blood tests can help determine the causes in some patients. In other patients the causes will never be definitively identified.
The treatment of bronchiectasis focuses on preventing and promptly treating recurrent infections (also referred to as exacerbations). There are a variety of inhaled medications that help improve airway function and prevent infections. Antibiotics are often used to prevent or treat exacerbations. For severe exacerbations, hospitalization is often required and a prolonged course of antibiotics may be prescribed. There are also a variety of airway clearance devices that help remove lung secretions. These include percussion or vibration devices, postural drainage, flutter valves and others.
Annual influenza vaccination and pneumonia vaccination every five years are generally encouraged.
The lung doctors at Arizona Pulmonary Specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating bronchiectasis. Our team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists will work with you to ensure that you understand your medicines and other treatments.