Bronchiectasis (Acquired, Congenital)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

What is the treatment for bronchiectasis?

Unfortunately, bronchiectasis is not a curable disease, but a slowly progressive disease. Treatment for bronchiectasis is based on control of symptoms and preventing additional infections. Treatment protocols frequently include keeping immunizations up-to-date, eliminating aggravating factors such as cigarette smoke, alcohol and drugs, and encouraging good nutrition. Increasing fluid intake to keep mucous less sticky is another treatment. Sometimes an expectorant (to loosen the mucous) and mucous thinning medication can help decrease symptoms.

Chest physical therapy, which usually involves rhythmic clapping on the back of your chest, can help with loosening sputum so it can be coughed up.

If patients acquire an infection, antibiotics effective against the pathogen (virus, bacteria, or fungus) and chest physiotherapy are utilized as primary treatments. In addition, bronchodilators, corticosteroid therapy and, if needed, oxygen therapy is utilized in many patients. Patients with severe exacerbations of bronchiectasis usually need hospitalization and IV medications.

Patients with bronchiectasis that is poorly controlled with antibiotics may require surgical therapy. Surgical therapy (or in some individuals, bronchoscopy) can remove mucus plugging, foreign bodies or tumors that exacerbate bronchiectasis. Excessive hemoptysis may need to be treated surgically or by bronchial artery embolization. Some patients may benefit from surgical removal of nonfunctional lung tissue.

Can bronchiectasis be prevented?

Bronchiectasis due to genetic defects is currently not preventable. However, the incidence in the rate of progression of bronchiectasis can be reduced by avoiding those environmental factors that increase bronchiectasis risk such as alcohol, drugs, environmental toxins and smoking cigarettes. In addition, avoiding those situations that can lead to pulmonary infections can reduce the risk of developing bronchiectasis. Pertussis (whooping cough) in children can lead to bronchiectasis later in life. Immunization can prevent this cause.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/30/2016

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