Sputum clearance is of prime importance in the management of patients with bronchiectasis. While nebulised normal isotonic saline (0.9%) (IS) has been anecdotally used to treat patients with tenacious sputum, the use of hypertonic saline (7%) (HS) could have potential muco-protective and clearance properties. 24 patients with bronchiectasis were randomised to receive four single treatment schedules in random order: (1) active cycle breathing technique (ACBT) alone, (2) nebulised terbutaline then ACBT, (3) nebulised terbutaline, nebulised IS then ACBT and (4) nebulised terbutaline, nebulised HS then ACBT. Sputum weights were significantly higher after HS than IS (P = 0.002). Ease of expectoration also differed overall (P < 0.0001) and was significantly lower with HS than with IS (P = 0.0005). Sputum viscosity differed between treatment phases, with a significant linear trend to reduced sputum viscosity with HS (P = 0.0002). These changes were associated with small but statistically significant differences in FEV1 (P = 0.043) and FVC (P = 0.011) between treatment phases. Nebulised hypertonic saline can be used safely and effectively as an adjunct to physiotherapy in selected patients. A long-term prospective trial is now indicated to determine its effectiveness on long-term infection rate, quality of life and lung function.