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What is Bronchiectasis?

Understanding the Vicious Cycle of Bronchciectasis

Bronchiectasis (bron-kee-eck-tuh-sis) is a condition affecting the airways in the lungs that causes cough, increased mucus production, and recurrent lung infections. The symptoms are caused by abnormal widening of the airways of the lung, also known as bronchi. The cells lining the airways become inflamed and swollen. These damaged airways can no longer effectively clear mucus and bacteria from the lung. This can lead to flare-ups of cough, mucus production, and shortness of breath.

Bronchiectasis is caused by one or more infections introduced into the lungs. People with bronchiectasis are more likely to get lung infections. Each lung infection can make the bronchiectasis worse. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of bronchiectasis is very important.

bronchiectasis airways

Signs & Symptoms of Bronchiectasis

Often developing gradually, symptoms of bronchiectasis may not appear for months or even years after the pre-disposing event or events. Some of the signs and symptoms of a bronchiectasis exacerbation are the same as those of acute Bronchitis and COPD making them hard to differentiate.

Studies show almost 1 in 2 COPD patients may have bronchiectasis,1 70,000 new patients each year2

bronchiectasis population

Bronchiectasis can be tricky because it often presents like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), but won’t respond to COPD therapy. In fact, studies show it’s much more prevalent than what’s being diagnosed.

Patients suffering from:

  • Long-term productive cough
  • Recurring chest infections
  • Frequent exacerbations requiring antibiotics, i.e., recurring pneumonia
  • Frequent hospitalizations

…should be screened for bronchiectasis.

1. Kosmos E, et al., Bronchiectasis in Patients with COPD: An Irrelevant Imaging Finding or a Clinically Important Phenotype? CHEST 2016;150(4):894A.
2. Weycker D, et al., Prevalence and Incidence of Non-cystic Fibrosis BE Among US Adults in 2013. Chron Respir Dis 2017. Nov;14(4): 377-384.

Diagnosing Bronchiectasis

The first step in diagnosing bronchiectasis is a thorough evaluation. Your doctor may have you do a number of tests to evaluate your breathing.

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.

If symptoms suggest a patient is suffering from bronchiectasis, HRCT scan images can reveal any problems with or damage to the lung structure.

CT scan diagnosis

Managing Symptoms of Bronchiectasis

vicious cycle of bronchiectasis

A well-rounded treatment plan incorporating antibiotics, periodic testing and airway clearance helps manage the symptoms of this chronic disease.

Airway Clearance Therapy (ACT) is considered the cornerstone of therapy aimed at minimizing the effects of airway obstruction, infection, and inflammation in lung diseases such as bronchiectasis. High Frequency Chest Wall Oscillation (HFCWO) is an airway clearance therapy that can help mobilize and loosen secretions in the lungs, which may help reduce exacerbations, hospitalizations, and antibiotic use.

The AffloVest Mobile HFCWO therapy vest is engineered to mimic anatomically targeted chest PT, the golden standard of airway clearance therapy. It can be an effective airway clearance therapy for bronchiectasis patients by improving bronchial drainage by enhancing mobilization of secretions. Patented Direct Dynamic Oscillation™ technology with eight oscillating motors creates individual pressure wave forms, providing disruption in the lungs to mobilize secretions and allow them to be more easily coughed up.

Click To Download a PDF on Bronchiectasis from the American Thoracic Society.

What is the potential impact of breaking the vicious cycle ?

Bronchiectasis patients averaged $5,681 higher medical care expenditures with averages of : 1, 2, 3

1. Ford ES, Murphy LB, Khavjou O, Holt JB, Croft JB., Total and State-Specific Medical and Absenteeism Costs of COPD Among Adults Aged 18 Years in the United States for 2010 and Projections Through 2020; CHEST American College of Chest Physicians; CDC; 2014
2. Weycker D, et al., Prevalence and Economic Burden of Bronchiectasis. CLIN PULM MED 2005;12:205.
3. Pamela J. McShane, Edward T. Naureckas, Gregory Tino, et al., Concise Clinical Review Non-Cystic Fibrosis Bronchiectasis; University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, Illinois; University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Am J Respir Crit Care Med Vol 188, Iss. 6, pp 647–656, Sep 15, 2013 Copyright ª 2013 by the American Thoracic Society  Originally Published in Press as DOI: 10.1164/rccm.201303-0411CI on July 30, 2013

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