The incidence of bronchiectasis (BCT) has probably decreased in developed countries in recent years, but reliable statistical data on its occurrence are still lacking. The aim of the present study was to retrospectively evaluate the prevalence, age distribution and aetiology of BCT, diagnosed in a selected series of symptomatic patients of a Western country by using bronchography. The authors analysed the main known predisposing and associated conditions (PACs), and the occurrence and age distribution of BCT in 144 consecutive patients who underwent bronchological examination (fibreoptic bronchoscopy and bronchography) in the years 1987-1994 because of recurrent purulent bronchitis and/or haemoptysis. The overall prevalence of BCT was 34% (49/144); its age distribution was: 17.2% (0-10 yrs), 43.7% (11-20 yrs), 38% (21-30 yrs), 37.5% (31-40 yrs), 33.3% (41-50 yrs), 40% (51-60 yrs), and 20% (61-70 yrs). Thirty-one PACs were found in 29/144 patients of the whole study group. The prevalence of BCT was significantly higher in the subgroup of 29 patients with PACs than in the subgroup of 115 patients without PACs (75.9% versus 23.5%; p < 0000001). The aetiology of BCT was mainly unexplained, as it was only possible to detect 24 PACs in 22/49 patients with BCT (44.9%): congenital, genetic and immune disorders (eight), localized airways obstructive diseases (five), pulmonary infections (three), bronchial asthma (two), pulmonary lobar fibrosis (two), ulcerative colitis (two), dermatomiositis (one), and toxin inhalation (one). The authors conclude that bronchiectasis still occurs in a large percentage of symptomatic patients of a developed country in the post-antimicrobial era, especially in the second to sixth decades, as well as in the presence of predisposing and associated conditions; its aetiology remains unknown in more than half of cases.