Study objective: Awareness of bronchiectasis on the part of clinicians has been low in recent years, although it was previously well recognized. We believe that bronchiectasis is underdiagnosed, and that current literature is skewed toward the esoteric etiologies of bronchiectasis.
Design: We reviewed the clinical, radiologic, microbiologic, and physiologic findings in 123 well-studied patients with proved bronchiectasis.
Setting: The University of Texas Health Center at Tyler Hospital and Clinics.
Measurements and results: There were 38 men and 85 women with a mean (+/- SD) age of 57.2 +/- 16.7 years; 55% were lifetime nonsmokers. Diagnosis was confirmed with CTs of the chest in 56%, by bronchogram in 28%, and surgery with the remainder. Seventy percent of patients gave a history of an antecedent potentially causative event for the bronchiectasis, usually pneumonia. Symptoms of bronchiectasis included chronic cough with the production of purulent sputum, hemoptysis, recurrent fever, and pleurisy. The finding of crackles on chest examination was the rule (70%) with wheezing present in 34% of the group. Pulmonary function studies documented airway obstruction to be present in 54% of the lifetime nonsmokers. The chest radiographs were abnormal in 91.3%, showing fibrotic stranding and infiltrates. A variety of pathologic microbial flora, particularly Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other opportunistic organisms, were isolated from the sputum. Patients who had smoked had much the same picture as nonsmokers, although they had a greater degree of airway obstruction.
Conclusions: A characteristic clinical picture of bronchiectasis emerges after review and evaluation of these data. Knowledge of this picture should allow ready recognition of the disease.