The evaluation for bronchiectasis often includes:
- A complete medical history
- A complete physical examination
- A chest CT scan (a specialized X-ray which produces detailed slice-like pictures) of the lungs.
- Breathing tests, called pulmonary function tests. These determine the presence and severity of abnormal airflow out of the lungs.
- Specific screening or diagnostic tests for some of the possible underlying diseases that may cause bronchiectasis, based on the history and physical exam.
Your doctor may choose to have you seen by a specialist, such as a pulmonologist (lung specialist) to confirm a diagnosis and treat you bronchiectasis once it is diagnosed.
Bronchiectasis is diagnosed by x-ray imaging, almost always with a CT of the chest (CAT scan). The CT scan will show the location and severity and may give clues about its cause.
The main goal of bronchiectasis treatment is to keep infections and increased mucus under control. It’s also critical to prevent further damage of the airways and minimize mucus buildup. Common methods of treating bronchiectasis include:
- Airway clearance therapy such as breathing exercises and chest physiotherapy
- pulmonary rehabilitation
- antibiotics to prevent and treat infection
- bronchodilators to open up airways
- medications to thin mucus
- expectorantsto aid in coughing up mucus
- oxygen therapy
- vaccinationsto prevent respiratory infections
Chest physiotherapy (CPT) is a cornerstone of airway clearance therapy. One form is a high-frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) vest to help clear your lungs of mucus. The vest uses mechanical oscillation targeting the lungs through the chest and back, to help mobilize and thin secretions. This can help dislodge mucus from the walls of the bronchial tubes so that it can be coughed out.