What is the treatment of Bronchiectasis?

Updated at: Jan 10, 2013
What is the treatment of Bronchiectasis?
Editorial Team
Other DiseasesWritten by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Jan 10, 2013

Bronchiectasis often is treated with medicines, hydration, and chest physical therapy (CPT).

If the bronchiectasis is isolated to a section of the lung, or if there's a lot of bleeding, surgery may be recommended. If the bronchiectasis is widespread and causing respiratory failure, your doctor may recommend oxygen.

The goals of treatment are to:

  • Treat any underlying conditions and lung infections
  • Help remove mucus (a slimy substance) from your lungs. Maintaining good hydration helps with the removal of mucus
  • Prevent complications

Early diagnosis and treatment of bronchiectasis are important. The sooner your doctor can start treating your bronchiectasis and the underlying condition, the better the chances of preventing further damage to your lungs.


To treat bronchiectasis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, bronchodilators, expectorants, or mucus-thinning medicines.


Antibiotics are the main treatment for the repeated lung infections that bronchiectasis causes. Oral antibiotics often are used to treat these infections.


For hard-to-treat infections, you may be given antibiotics through an intravenous (IV) line inserted into your arm. Your doctor may be able to help you arrange for a home care provider to give you IV antibiotics at home.


Bronchodilators open your airways by relaxing the muscles around them. Inhaled bronchodilators can be breathed in as a fine mist using an inhaler or a nebulizer.
Inhaled bronchodilators work quickly because the medicine goes directly to your lungs. Your doctor may recommend that you use a bronchodilator right before you do CPT.
Your doctor also may recommend medicines such as expectorants and mucus thinners to help you cough up mucus.


Expectorants help loosen the mucus in your lungs. They often are combined with decongestants, which may provide extra relief. Mucus thinners, such as acetylcysteine, loosen the mucus to make it easier to cough up.

For some of these treatments, little information is available to determine how well they work.




Drinking plenty of fluid, especially water, helps prevent airway mucus from becoming thick and sticky. Good hydration helps keep airway mucus moist and slippery, which makes it easier to cough up.

Chest Physical Therapy

CPT also is called physiotherapy (FIZ-e-o-THER-a-pe) or chest clapping or percussion. It involves pounding your chest and back over and over with your hands or a device to loosen the mucus from your lungs so that you can cough it up.

You may sit with your head tilted down or lie on your stomach with your head down while you do CPT. Gravity and force help drain the mucus from your lungs.

Some people find CPT hard or uncomfortable to do. Several devices have been developed that may help with CPT, such as:

  • An electric chest clapper, known as a mechanical percussor.
  • An inflatable therapy vest that uses high-frequency air waves to force the mucus that's deep in your lungs toward your upper airways so you can cough it up.
  • A small handheld device that you breathe out through. It causes vibrations that dislodge the mucus.
  • A mask that creates vibrations that help break the mucus loose from your airway walls.

Some of the methods and devices are popular with patients and doctors, but little information is available on how well they actually work. Choice usually is based on convenience and cost.


Several breathing techniques also are used that may help move mucus to the upper ...


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