Under-Diagnosis of Bronchiectasis Hinders Treatment

Bronchiectasis (BE) is increasing in prevalence, requiring a greater awareness of the disease.  Bronchiectasis most often arises from several different causes.   The most common symptom that is associated with a diagnosis is a persistent cough, which is a common presentation in various respiratory diseases and illnesses. The commonality of this symptom is one of the primary reason it often goes undiagnosed.

Currently healthcare providers are not trained to make bronchiectasis as part of their differential diagnosis work-up when assessing patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  According to a recent study commissioned, under-diagnosis may be due largely to its similarity in symptoms and grouping under COPD as the clinical features of the COPD and BE frequently overlap. If physicians keep detailed notes on patients’ conditions, it may be possible to reduce misdiagnosis and under-diagnosis, allowing those suffering from bronchiectasis to get the proper treatment they need in order to minimize reinfection and further lung damage.

Most prevalent characteristics of BE:

  • Chest crackling

  • Low pulmonary function tests

  • Obvious trigger in the patient’s past

  • Presence of specific microbial pathogens in sputum

  • Wheezing

Treatment Options for Bronchiectasis

Patients diagnosed with bronchiectasis face many challenges, but a well-rounded treatment plan incorporating medical interventions, periodic testing and self-care helps manage the symptoms of this chronic disease. As with any condition, education is a key part of treatment. Patients must work with their doctor to gain a better understanding of how bronchiectasis can impact daily activities and what lifestyle changes are needed to prevent the associated lung damage from getting worse.

One or more of treatment types may be necessary to control bronchiectasis symptoms and ensure infections don’t contribute to inflammation. Some tests used for diagnosis should be repeated during treatment to monitor potential progression of lung damage. With proper treatment, bronchiectasis is much less likely to get worse.

Medical treatments for BE inlcude:

  • Antibiotics to address infections and inflammation

  • Medications to thin mucus and clear it from the lungs

  • Oxygen therapy

  • Immunization against lung infections

Additional ways to manage Bronchiectasis