What is bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis (bron-kee-ek’-tas-is) is a
chronic lung disease that can result from
infections and swelling which injures the
walls of the airways. The airways are the
tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs.
Injury to the lung can cause problems with
mucus build up. The mucus creates a place
in which germs can grow and lead to even
more lung infections. Each infection causes
more damage to the airways. Over time, the
airways become stretched out, flabby, and
scarred. When you breathe it may be hard to
move air in and out. This can affect how
much oxygen reaches your other organs. If
your lungs can not move enough oxygen
into your body, bronchiectasis can lead to
serious illness, such as heart failure.
Bronchiectasis can affect just a part of one
lung or many areas of both lungs. It often
starts in childhood, but symptoms may not
appear until months or even years, after you
have started having frequent lung infections.
There are two types of bronchiectasis
Acquired bronchiectasis: This type
occurs in adults and older children, and
it is more common.
Congenital bronchiectasis: This type
most often affects infants and children.
You are born with this type of
bronchiectasis. About half of all cases
result from a disease called cystic
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary widely from patient to
patient. The symptoms may include:
Coughing (worse when lying down)
and shortness of breath
Weakness, weight loss, fatigue
Tan or green, foul smelling or
How do I know if I have this?
Doctors test for this disease with a chest x-
ray, breathing tests, sputum culture, and/or
What is the treatment?
Patients are often given antibiotics for
infection and medicines to open the airways.
There are also airway clearance techniques
or treatments to help clear lungs. Lung
transplants may be an option for severe
Can it be prevented?
If lung infections are treated right away,
bronchiectasis is less likely to occur.
Patients should avoid cigarette smoke and
other lung irritants, and not use sedatives.
If you have any questions or concerns please
call your health care provider.
For more information, see the American
Lung Association website, www.lungusa.org
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 3/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6503.