How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?
You should see your doctor if you develop a persistent cough. While this may not be caused by bronchiectasis, it requires further investigation.
If your doctor suspect you may have bronchiectasis, they'll refer you to a specialist in treating lung conditions (Pulmonologist) for further tests.
The diagnosis of bronchiectasis usually involves a history and physical exam, with a history being a chronic daily cough and sputum production. Sputum analysis, chest X-ray and high-resolution CT of the chest (lungs) are tests usually ordered. In most cases, the definitive diagnosis is made with the CT of the chest although occasionally a chest X-ray is sufficient. These exams usually show the changes in the bronchioles that are consistent with bronchiectasis.
Pulmonary function tests also may be ordered to determine the patient's baseline lung function to help determine the extent of lung tissue compromise.
What is the treatment bronchiectasis?
The damage caused to the lungs by bronchiectasis is permanent, but treatment can help relieve your symptoms and stop the damage getting worse.
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.
The main treatments include:
Exercises and special devices to help you clear mucus out of your lungs
Medication to help improve airflow within the lungs
Antibiotics to treat any lung infections that develop
Surgery. 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.