Bronchiectasis is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Bronchiectasis is an irreversible dilatation of ≥1 airways accompanied by recurrent transmural bronchial infection/inflammation and chronic mucopurulent sputum production.
  • Generally classified into cystic fibrosis (CF) and noncystic fibrosis (non-CF) bronchiectasis


  • Predominant age: most commonly presents in 6th decade of life
  • Predominant sex: female > male (1)


Incidence has decreased in the United States for two reasons:

  • Widespread childhood vaccination against pertussis
  • Effective treatment of childhood respiratory infections with antibiotics
  • In the United States, prevalence estimated to be 52.3/100,000
  • Prevalence increased substantially with age from 4.2/100,000 persons aged 18 to 34 years to 271.8/100,000 among those aged ≥75 years (1).

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • CF bronchiectasis: bronchiectasis due to CF
  • Non-CF bronchiectasis
    • Most cases are idiopathic.
    • Most commonly associated with non-CF bronchiectasis is childhood infection.
  • Vicious circle hypothesis: Transmural infection, generally by bacterial organisms, causes inflammation and obstruction of airways. Damaged airways and dysfunctional cilia foster bacterial colonization, which leads to further inflammation and obstruction.

Risk Factors

  • Nontuberculous mycobacterial infection is both a cause and a complication of non-CF bronchiectasis.
  • Severe respiratory infection in childhood (measles, adenovirus, influenza, pertussis, or bronchiolitis)
  • Systemic diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Recurrent pneumonia
  • Aspirated foreign body
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Congenital abnormalities

General Prevention

  • Routine immunizations against pertussis, measles, Haemophilus influenzae type B, influenza, and pneumococcal pneumonia
  • Genetic counseling if congenital condition is etiology
  • Smoking cessation

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Mucociliary clearance defects
    • Primary ciliary dyskinesia
    • Young syndrome (secondary ciliary dyskinesia)
    • Kartagener syndrome
  • Other congenital conditions
    • α1-Antitrypsin deficiency
    • Marfan syndrome
    • Cartilage deficiency (Williams-Campbell syndrome)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis, causing traction bronchiectasis
  • Postinfectious conditions
    • Bacteria (H. influenzae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa)
    • Mycobacterial infections (tuberculosis [TB] and Mycobacterium avium complex [MAC])
    • Whooping cough
    • Aspergillus species
    • Viral (HIV, adenovirus, measles, influenza virus)
  • Immunodeficient conditions
    • Primary: hypogammaglobulinemia
    • Secondary: allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), posttransplantation
    • Sequelae of toxic inhalation or aspiration (e.g., chlorine, luminal foreign body)
  • Rheumatic/chronic inflammatory conditions
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Sjögren syndrome
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Miscellaneous
    • Yellow nail syndrome

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