The health care provider will perform a physical exam. When listening to the chest with a stethoscope, the provider may hear small clicking, bubbling, wheezing, rattling, or other sounds, usually in the lower lungs.
Tests that may be done include:
Aspergillosis precipitin test (to check for signs of an allergic reaction to fungus)
Daily drainage to remove sputum is part of treatment. A respiratory therapist can show the person coughing exercises that will help.
Medicines are often prescribed. These include:
Antibiotics to treat infections
Bronchodilators to open up airways
Expectorants to help loosen and cough up thick sputum
Surgery to remove (resect) the lung may be needed if medicine does not work and the disease is in a small area, or if the person has a lot of bleeding in the lungs. It is more commonly considered if there is no genetic or acquired predisposition to bronchiectasis (for example, more likely to consider if there is bronchiectasis in one segment of the lung only because of prior obstruction).
The outlook depends on the specific cause of the disease. With treatment, most people live without major disability and the disease progresses slowly.
There is a change in the color or amount of phlegm you cough up, or if it is bloody
Other symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment
You can reduce your risk by promptly treating lung infections.
Childhood vaccines and a yearly flu vaccine help reduce the chance of some infections. Avoiding upper respiratory infections, smoking, and pollution may also reduce your risk of getting this infection.
Chan ED, Iseman MD. Bronchiectasis. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 48.
Chang AB, Redding GJ. Bronchiectasis and chronic suppurative lung disease. In: Wilmott RW, Deterding R, Li A, et al, eds. Kendig's Disorders of the Respiratory Tract in Children. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 26.
Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.