How Serious is Bronchiectasis?

hfcwo therapy, bronchiectasis treatment

Bronchiectasis is a chronic lung condition that can affect your quality of life. From frequent coughing and fatigue to recurring infections that require hospitalization, bronchiectasis can cause you to put your personal life on hold, making you miss life’s special moments, like a grandchild’s birthday or day out with the family.

Because bronchiectasis remains an underdeveloped area of respiratory care—unlike COPD or cystic fibrosis—most patients are unfamiliar with its causes, symptoms, and effective treatment methods. To help you and your loved ones have a better understanding of how serious bronchiectasis is in terms of health, wellness, and life expectancy, here are the answers to some common questions about this condition:

How Common is Bronchiectasis?

HFCWO therapy, How serious is bronchiectasis

According to a 2017 study, bronchiectasis may affect 4.2 million people in the United States.1 And though it can occur at any age, bronchiectasis is more common in women over 60.2 

The pulmonary condition is caused by damage to the bronchial tubes (airways in your lungs): “Cilia and mucus cover the linings of the bronchial tubes. Mucus protects against unwanted particles that enter the lungs. Cilia are like tiny hairs that sweep the particles and excess mucus upwards, out of the lung.”3

So, what happens when the cilia become damaged?

When this happens, your cilia lose their ability to sweep away particles and mucus toward the airways, causing mucus to build up, which in turn, makes you more susceptible to respiratory infection.3

Can Bronchiectasis Go Away?

Unfortunately, there is no known treatment that can cure bronchiectasis. Similar to COPD, this pulmonary disease is a lifelong condition. And with each recurring infection, your lungs become more damaged—thereby restarting the cycle of symptoms. Though bronchiectasis is a permanent condition, managing its symptoms to reduce flare ups is possible!

What is the Treatment for Bronchiectasis?

Your doctor may prescribe you one, or a combination, of the following airway clearance techniques for treating bronchiectasis:

  • Manual Chest Physiotherapy
  • Breathing Techniques
  • Antibiotic Regimens
  • OPEP Devices
  • High Frequency Chest Wall Oscillation (HFCWO) Therapy

 

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, your doctor may also prescribe you other methods of treating bronchiectasis, depending on your individual condition. One or more of the following may be prescribed to you in combination with your airway clearance therapy to improve symptoms:

  • Bronchodilators – medication you inhale to help relax the muscles of your airways.
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids – medication used to help reduce inflammation. 
  • Oxygen Therapy – therapy you receive at home or in the hospital to help raise low blood oxygen levels.
  • Surgery – though rare, your doctor may prescribe surgery to remove part of your airways.

 

HFCWO therapy, how serious is bronchiectasisIn a 2018 longitudinal outcome-based study, bronchiectasis-related exacerbations (worsening of symptoms) were significantly reduced through the use of HFCWO therapy. Results show that at 2.5 years, patients experienced:

  • 42% decrease in hospitalizations 
  • 75% decrease in emergency visits 
  • 38% decrease in antibiotic prescriptions 

In addition, 68% of patients reported a significant improvement in their quality of life and noted a reduction in the severity of their exacerbations.

 

What is the Life Expectancy of Someone with Bronchiectasis?

According to the American Lung Association, lung function will gradually decline for patients living with bronchiectasis: “Patients with frequent exacerbations or those whose bronchi are infected by certain bacteria, may lose lung function at a faster rate and have more bothersome respiratory symptoms.”5 However, by clearing mucus from your lungs using a combination of medication and airway clearance techniques, you may be able to improve symptoms, reduce complications, and live a longer, fuller life. 

 

Are you or a loved one experiencing the following symptoms?

  • Chronic cough that produces mucus
  • Recurring respiratory infections
  • Breathlessness and wheezing
  • General fatigue

If so, request a high-resolution CT scan with your clinician to assess if bronchiectasis is present. And before you go, request a free SmartVest patient informational packet to bring with you to your appointment and learn more about how our HFCWO vest works to improve airway clearance. 

Signs of Bronchiectasis, COPD and Bronchiectasis,

 


  1.  Weycker, D. Hansen, G. Seifer, F. (2017). Prevalence and incidence of noncystic fibrosis bronchiectasis among US adults in 2013. Chronic Respiratory Disease, 14(4). 377-384. doi 10.1177/1479972317709649.
  2.  Medical News Today. “What is Bronchiectasis.” Retreived from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/185768.php
  3. Medical News Today. “What is Bronchiectasis.” Retreived from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/185768.php
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Bronchiectasis.” Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/bronchiectasis
  5. American Lung Association. “Learn about Bronchiectasis.” Retreived from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/bronchiectasis/learn-about-bronchiectasis.html
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