Bronchiectasis is a chronic debilitating condition. Pathologically, a vicious cycle of infection and inflammation exists in the permanently damaged airways with patients suffering a persistent cough, chronic daily sputum production and recurrent chest infections. Once termed an 'orphan disease', the prevalence of bronchiectasis has become increasingly recognised over the past few decades. The associated burden of disease in terms of respiratory morbidity, effect on patients' health-related quality of life and the economic cost of long term management is significant and it has become apparent that more research into its causes and management is urgently needed. This article reviews what is currently known about bronchiectasis, its pathophysiology, aetiology and management strategies.