Bronchiectasis is a lung condition that causes coughing up of mucus. In the lungs, the bronchi are the passages that allow air to enter the lungs. In bronchiectasis, the inside surfaces of the bronchi dilate and get thicker over time from inflammation that leaves scars.
Damage to the walls causes mucus to collect in these passages because the walls are not strong enough to make the mucus move out of the lungs. In addition, the cilia (thin strands that look like hair and that help move mucus) are destroyed. When that happens, infections can happen more easily and breathing becomes difficult.
About Our Program
Cleveland Clinic’s comprehensive Bronchiectasis Program focuses on determining the underlying cause of bronchiectasis and managing the disease through appropriate treatment.
The goal of the program is to minimize progression of lung disease, as well as managing the day-to-day symptoms such as coughing, mucus production, shortness of breath, weight loss and fatigue that can dramatically impact a patient's quality of life.
More than 250 patients are referred to our program from all over the world each year.
A Team Approach
Our multidisciplinary care team has extensive experience in diagnosing and caring for adults living with bronchiectasis. Unique collaborations include:
- Infectious disease experts in the management of non-tuberculous mycobacteria
- Immunologists for the treatment of Bronchiectasis associated with immune deficiency
- Maternal Fetal Medicine: Comprehensive management including preconception planning, pregnancy management, and delivery
- Cleveland Clinic Home Care: Ability to safely provide home intravenous antibiotics
- Cleveland Clinic Specialty Pharmacy: Access to specialty medications, such as inhaled antibiotics
For those patients with advanced-stage lung disease, we collaborate with Cleveland Clinic's Lung Transplant Program, one of the most active and experienced programs in the nation.
Causes & Symptoms
Bronchiectasis may be caused by cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic condition that results in long-lasting lung infections and reduced ability to breathe. CF gets worse over time. However, approximately one third of the time, a cause of bronchiectasis cannot be found.
Our program has access to advanced diagnostics to identify all possible causes of bronchiectasis including:
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic aspiration/inhalation injury
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Cystic Fibrosis (Adults)
- Immune system deficits
- Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM)
- Primary ciliary dyskinesia
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjögren's syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Yellow nail syndrome
Some of the most common symptoms of Bronchiectasis are:
- Coughing that results in a lot of mucus
- Coughing up mucus that has blood in it (known as hemoptysis)
- Chest pain or tightness because it is harder to breathe
- Wheezing or making whistling noises when breathing
- Clubbing of nails
- Loss of weight
- Flare-ups that usually include:
- Fevers and/or chills
- Increased shortness of breath
- Night sweats
What We Treat
There are three main areas of treatment that our program focuses on:
- Clearing the airways of mucus:
- During your visit we will discuss medications, devices, and exercises that can help thin and move the mucus to minimize infections and improve your daily symptoms. Our respiratory therapists will train patients in the proper use of these devices as well as optimal coughing techniques.
- Treating airway infection:
- Our lab specializes in detecting infections that may be missed at other labs such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). Once identified we may use inhaled antibiotics to help treat your infections, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
- Treating abnormal airway inflammation:
- Daily use of anti-inflammatory medications is often key to improvement of symptoms and stabilizing lung function.
Infections We Treat
Our program also provides management of difficult to treat infections that are often seen in bronchiectasis, including:
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- Stenotrophomonas maltophilia
- Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM such as Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) and Mycobacterium abscessus)
Appointments & Locations
To make an appointment, please call 216.444.6503.
For Medical Professionals
Our secure online service, DrConnect, provides referring physicians access to patient’s treatment progress with streamlined communication from Cleveland Clinic physicians to your office, allowing continued participation in the ongoing care of patients. With the best possible treatment plans and coordinated care, our team approach benefits both the patient and the referring physician.
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellowships
Our pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowships provide board-certified internists with the tools necessary to care for patients, who have complicated lung diseases and critical illnesses. During the three-year training period, which includes an 18-month core program and 18-month subspecialty track, fellows are exposed to a wide variety of medical problems in both the inpatient and outpatient settings.
Learn more about Bronchiectasis in our Health Library, including management and treatment, prevention, outlook and prognosis, and information for living with this condition:
Additional resources for the treatment and management of Bronchiectasis can be found at:
Find support groups for people suffering from Bronchiectasis: