Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
The airways are surrounded by cartilage and muscle that provide support and maintain the shape of the airways. Constant irritation to these two components results in their destruction, causing the airways to enlarge. Bronchiectasis is inflammation and permanent widening of the airways within the lungs. Severe infection with a virus or bacteria, blockage of an airway, or a defect clearing secretions are common causes of bronchiectasis. The chance of getting this disease depends on the underlying cause. Your doctor can detect this disease by evaluating the symptoms of your underlying lung disease and ordering specific tests. Cough and sputum production are very common. Common tests include a sputum sample, a chest X-ray, and a computed tomography (CT) scan. The sputum sample allows your doctor to identify organisms causing inflammation and aids in selecting the correct antibiotic. The CT scan allows your doctor to look at the size of your airways
and helps establish a correct diagnosis. The outcome of this disease depends on the cause. Some patients are able to gain back much of their lung function, but others may have a progressive worsening that can lead to death.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Common features of bronchiectasis include fever, constant cough with discolored sputum, wheezing, shortness of breath, and changes in the nails. Many patients often find blood in their sputum. Bronchiectasis is not contagious. The disease can cause significant lifestyle changes. Because bronchiectasis is a disease of the lungs, you may find yourself quickly becoming short of breath after exertion. Many patients have problems sleeping as a result of secretions accumulating in the lung while lying down. Furthermore, you may notice weight loss and a generalized fatigue. The treatment helps reduce many of the symptoms.

Treatment may be medical or surgical. Medical treatment for bronchiectasis involves chest physiotherapy, inhalers, and antibiotics. Chest physiotherapy involves postural changes that allow for better drainage of secretions from the lungs. The inhalers allow for increased airflow through the lungs, and help clear the secretions. Antibiotics reduce some of the inflammation by killing bacteria that have infected the airways. Most patients tolerate the treatment very well. Nevertheless, occasional patients may have resistance develop to an antibiotic. If your problems are severe and do not respond to conventional treatment, surgery is an option for certain cases. The surgery involves removing affected areas of the lung. Discuss the possibility of surgical removal with your physician before considering this option.

The DOs
• Make sure that you follow all directions for your medications. They are an important part of helping your lungs work well.
• Chest physiotherapy is often time consuming, but it plays an important role in your treatment. Chest physiotherapy allows your lungs to heal faster and breathe easier.
• Get vaccinated for pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza.
• Drink lots of water to loosen secretions in your lungs.
• Exercise regularly.

The DON’Ts
• If you smoke, quitting may slow the progression of the disease and help alleviate the symptoms.
• Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you begin to feel another illness ( i.e. flu or pneumonia) setting in.
• If treatment is not helping your symptoms.
• If your cough or sputum suddenly increases in quality or quantity.
• If you are coughing up copious amount of blood.