WHAT IS BRONCHIECTASIS
Bronchiectasis (bron-kee-eck-tuh-sis) is a chronic respiratory disease that makes your airways abnormally widened, inflamed, and scarred leading to permanent airway damage. The damaged airways can no longer effectively clear mucus and bacteria from the airways and lungs. It causes cough, increased mucus production, and frequent lung infections or pneumonia.
There are many causes of bronchiectasis. One common cause is chronic lung infections, but anything that can damage the airways can cause bronchiectasis. Each lung infection can make the bronchiectasis worse. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of bronchiectasis is very important.
Often developing gradually, symptoms of bronchiectasis may not appear for months or even years after the pre-disposing event or events.
Studies show almost one in two COPD patients may have bronchiectasis,1 with 70,000 new patients diagnosed each year.2
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 with these symptoms should be screened for bronchiectasis:
- Long-term productive cough
- Coughing up yellow or green mucus daily
- Shortness of breath that gets worse with flare-ups
- Wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe
- Coughing up blood or mucus mixed with blood, a condition called hemoptysis
- Chest pain from increased effort to breathe
- Clubbing, or the thickening of the skin under nails
Bronchiectasis often presents like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), but does not respond to COPD therapy. If you have a long term productive cough, frequent lung infections that require antibiotics, or frequent hospitalizations- ask your physician to screen you for bronchiectasis.
The evaluation for bronchiectasis 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, CT scan images can reveal any problems with or damage to the lung structure.
BENEFITS OF AIRWAY CLEARANCE
One of the most effective airway clearance therapies available today for bronchiectasis patients is the mobile high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy vest, which produces vibrations at various frequencies and pulse intensities, thinning mucus and loosening it from the airways of the lungs. Mobile HFCWO vest therapy is a safe way to clear excess mucus from the lungs and their airways, as well as provide relief from coughing and bacterial infections. Clinical studies show most patients using mobile HFCWO airway clearance vests report relief of symptoms and improved pulmonary function. The main goal of HFCWO vest treatment is to keep infections and bronchial secretions under control. It’s also critical to prevent further obstructions of the airways and minimize lung damage.
What are the potential benefits for patients?
- Reducing antibiotic prescriptions
- Decreasing hospitalizations
- Reducing outpatient visits
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Bronchiectasis Resource Kit
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.