Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition in which the walls of the bronchi (lung airways) are thickened from long-term inflammation and scarring. As a result, mucus produced by the cells lining the bronchi does not drain properly. This leads to a mucus build-up that can cause recurrent infections, which can ultimately cause a decline in lung function over time.
Bronchiectasis is often part of another disease affecting the entire body, divided into two categories: cystic fibrosis (CF)-bronchiectasis and non-CF bronchiectasis. Roughly 50 percent of cases of non-CF bronchiectasis have no identifiable cause, which presents a challenge for both diagnosis and treatment.
As bronchiectasis is both a disease of the bronchial tubes and results in recurrent infection, our multidisciplinary team at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Lung Center consists of infectious disease experts, pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons who specialize in bronchiectasis and provide comprehensive, specialized care for patients. Their expertise and collaboration with other specialists throughout Brigham and Women's Hospital provides patients with a highly-informed diagnosis and a cohesive treatment plan.
Risk factors for bronchiectasis include:
Bronchiectasis is often part of another disease that affects the entire body. It can be caused by the following conditions:
The most common symptoms of bronchiectasis are:
To diagnose bronchiectasis, our specialists will carefully review your medical history and conduct a full physical examination. Your physician may also order additional tests, including:
While there is no cure for bronchiectasis, our physicians will create a personalized treatment plan that will allow you to manage your symptoms. Typically, your doctor will prescribe a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Surgery is only recommended in extreme cases or to treat the condition causing your bronchiectasis.
Your doctor will likely prescribe medications to help manage your symptoms. These can be administered either in pill form or through a nebulizer, a device consisting of a facemask or mouthpiece, a chamber that converts the medication into a mist, and a compressor that allows you to pump the medication into your lungs. Medications include:
There are several handheld devices that can help to remove mucus from your lungs using a combination of air pressure and vibrations to facilitate coughing. Vests are also available that generate more vigorous vibrations to help clear the mucus. Your physician will help you determine if a device is right for you.
Surgery is only recommended in extreme cases or to treat the underlying cause of your bronchiectasis. Possible surgical interventions include:
A multidisciplinary team will work with you every step of the way, from diagnostics through evaluation, to create a cohesive and comprehensive treatment plan. Our unique approach features same-day consultations with multiple specialists and fosters seamless, expert care. Your medical condition will be closely monitored and managed to promote optimal lung functioning and an improved quality of life.
Most patients do not require surgery. However, if you do, you will meet with your health care team first for pre-operative information and tests. On the day of your surgery, you will receive care from surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in thoracic surgery and interventional pulmonary procedures. After surgery, you will recover in our designated thoracic post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.
Bronchiectasis patients benefit from the wide range of specialists at The Lung Center, including thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists and imaging experts. This collaboration ensures comprehensive diagnosis and targeted treatment for patients.
Any recommended surgery or procedure will be performed by an experienced, board-certified surgeon, in collaboration with the treatment team including nurses and physician assistants, all of whom specialize in taking care of patients with bronchiectasis.
Learn more about bronchiectasis topics in our health library.
Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.
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