Diagnosing Bronchiectasis: The Benefits of HRCT Scanning

HRCT scan, diagnose bronchiectasisIn a previous blog post, we discussed the methods a prescriber may use to diagnose bronchiectasis (brong-kee-EK-tuh-sis), an irreversible chronic lung condition caused by abnormal widening of the airways of the lung. Left untreated, bronchiectasis may lead to exacerbations that require hospitalizations and multiple courses of antibiotics.

The most common way to diagnose bronchiectasis is through a high-resolution computerized tomography (HRCT) scan.


What is HRCT Scanning?

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a chest computerized tomography (to-MOG-ra-fee) scan involves the use of a more detailed type of chest x-ray to help capture high resolution images of a patient’s lungs: “Computers can combine these pictures to create three-dimensional (3D) models to help show the size, shape, and position of your lungs and… can help determine the cause of lung symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, or check to see if you have certain lung problems.”1

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A common question among patients is whether a HRCT scan is similar to an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The Center for Diagnosis Imaging states that unlike MRIs, CT scans take less time (sometimes as little as 5 minutes) to complete and are better at analyzing organs and bones than an MRI, which is typically used to examine soft tissue.2

hrct scan, diagnosing bronchiectasis

Why is HRCT Scanning Recommended for Diagnosing Bronchiectasis?

Unlike other methods used to diagnose bronchiectasis, an HRCT scan allows clinicians to examine the lungs’ structure with greater accuracy.3 The diagnostic test is also painless and performed in either a hospital setting or x-ray facility.4 In our video “How is Bronchiectasis Diagnosed?,” featuring Dr. Frederic Seifer—a renowned pulmonologist and expert in treating patients living with COPD and bronchiectasis—Dr. Seifer recommends that if a patient with COPD experiences symptoms that include frequent lower respiratory infections, yellow or green sputum production, or requires multiple courses of antibiotics, it’s likely the patient is experiencing comorbid bronchiectasis.


What to Expect During a HRCT Scan

If you request or your doctor recommends a HRCT scan to evaluate for bronchiectasis, you will be placed, while lying down on your back, on top of a table that slides into a tunnel-like scanner.5 From inside the tunnel, the scanner will begin taking multiple images of your chest and lungs to create a computerized 3D image of the chest wall.


bronchiectasis symptoms, bronchiectasis symptoms, treat bronchiectasisWhat to Expect Following a HRCT Scan

If your clinician determines that your symptoms (i.e., shortness of breath, frequent cough, recurring lower respiratory infections, etc.), are a sign of bronchiectasis, the next step is prescribing an effective airway clearance device to help you manage symptoms and find relief, so you can get back to breathing easier.


The SmartVest Airway Clearance System is an effective and comfortable high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy device that works to help clear patient’s airways of excess mucus, thereby reducing your exposure to recurring infection and further lung damage. To learn how SmartVest can help you breathe easier and reduce infection, explore our website for patient resources, clinical evidence on the effectiveness of our respiratory vest, and more! For questions, contact our SmartVest support team today!

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  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Chest CT Scan.” Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/chest-ct-scan.
  2. Center for Diagnostic Imagining. “How Are An MRI and CT (or CAT Scan) Different?” Retrieved form https://www.mycdi.com/blog/how-are-an-mri-and-a-ct-or-cat-scan-different/
  3. Bronchiectasis News Today. “Bronchiectasis Diagnosis.” Retrieved from https://bronchiectasisnewstoday.com/bronchiectasis-diagnosis/
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Chest CT Scan.” Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/chest-ct-scan.
  5. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Chest CT Scan.” Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/chest-ct-scan.