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Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of bronchiectasis in adults

Alan F Barker, MD
Section Editor
Talmadge E King, Jr, MD
Deputy Editor
Helen Hollingsworth, MD


Bronchiectasis shares many clinical features with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including inflamed and easily collapsible airways, obstruction to airflow, and frequent office visits and hospitalizations. The diagnosis is established clinically on the basis of cough on most days with tenacious sputum production, often one or more exacerbations/year, and radiographically by the presence of bronchial wall thickening and airway dilatation on chest computed tomographic (CT) scans [1].

The epidemiology, major clinical manifestations, and diagnostic approach to bronchiectasis will be reviewed here. The clinical manifestations and treatment of cystic fibrosis lung disease and the treatment of bronchiectasis are discussed separately. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Clinical manifestations of pulmonary disease" and "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease" and "Treatment of bronchiectasis in adults".)


The prevalence of bronchiectasis is provided by independent analyses of ICD codes from two large and different United States databases [2,3]:

An estimated 110,000 individuals have bronchiectasis in the United States [2]

The prevalence of bronchiectasis increases with age with a 8 to 10-fold difference in prevalence after the age of 60 (300 to 500/100,000) as compared to ages <40 to 50 (40 to 50/100,000) [2,3]. Reports from the United Kingdom and Germany describe similar marked age differences in prevalence [4,5].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 09, 2017.
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