content provided by



What is bronchiectasis?

United Kingdom


Bronchiectasis is a chronic lung condition characterized by abnormal widening (dilation) of the large airways (bronchial tubes). This damages the bronchial tubes and impairs their ability to clear mucus from the lungs.

Bronchiectasis may affect multiple areas of one or both lungs. Causes of bronchiectasis include inflammation and infection of the airways, such as due to:

  • Bacterial lung infections, such as chronic bronchitis or some types of pneumonia
  • Fungal infections in people with asthma (allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, or ABPA)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • A foreign body in the airway, especially in children

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Coughing up large amounts of yellow or green sputum, which may contain blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Recurring pneumonias in the same location

A doctor can confirm a diagnosis of bronchiectasis by a computerized tomography (CT) scan of the chest. Treatment depends on the extent and severity of the condition and may include:

  • Avoiding irritants such as smoke and dust
  • Bronchodilator medications, if the condition is associated with asthma
  • Antibiotics to treat or prevent lung infections
  • Daily postural drainage of the affected part of the lung to remove excess secretions
  • Surgical removal of the affected lung tissue

Last Updated: 03/15/2006
© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use


Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version