How Doctors Diagnose Bronchiectasis


The first sign of bronchiectasis is often a persistent cough. If you go to see your primary healthcare provider, they’ll usually ask you about the nature of your cough, if you bring up any sputum and whether or not you smoke. In addition, they should listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. If they hear a crackling noise or wheezing they may suspect you have bronchiectasis and refer you to a pulmonologist (reference: NHS.UK).

Discover the six known causes of bronchiectasis. 

It is likely that you will have a sample of your sputum tested and undergo a chest x-ray to rule out lung cancer. You will then need to have a CT scan which will show the bronchi (the airways inside of the lungs) in detail. The bronchi should taper at the ends, like branches of a tree, but if the bronchi are widened then it is likely that a diagnosis of bronchiectasis will be given.

Although the CT scan is usually very detailed and accurate (between 82 percent and 97 percent) further tests may be needed, and on rare occasions, this will mean having a bronchoscopy. Usually, blood tests will be taken to check for viruses or bacteria and to determine how well your immune system is coping. Lung function tests will show how quickly you can expel air from your lungs which will give the doctors an idea how the lungs are working and the level of damage sustained. If the patient is suspected of having cystic fibrosis, then a sweat test (pilocarpine iontophoresis) will determine how much salt and chlorine is present. Find out more about bronchiectasis diagnosis here.

Find out more about the pathology of bronchiectasis with these simple diagrams.

Bronchiectasis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


  1. For about nine months I was having one or two sustained bouts of coughing per day that would bring tears to my eyes and make my nose run, but no secretions. I saw my internist who listened to my chest but heard nothing and said to check back with him. Three months later I went to another local internist who after listening to my chest suggested Mucinex or similar. A month later I went to ER for shortness of breath and CT scan found pulmonary embolism and I was placed on Pradaxa. Coughing continued and when I finally saw the hospital report, I saw that the CT scan in addition to the small clots, also found bronchiectasis, mostly in right lung. I guess MDs were busy dealing with acute issue of clots, so no one even mentioned the other findings in the CT scan. I am at the point now where I use Breo and encourage coughing up secretions with flutter valve. But I am shocked by how quickly I start panting for air even after short walks. The Pradaxa seems to be working fine, and though clots are more serious, it’s the bronchiectasis that is a daily (and nightly) issue. My only question at this point is if the productive coughing is a positive sign of coping or should I be concerned that instead of the single bouts, I have short coughs that clear secretions throughout the day, but most often in the evening. Thanks for any info. Tom

  2. Diesel Morgan says:

    I was wondering if in the absence of a cough or anything else which might indicate bronchiectasis, would a bronchoscopy be something done right after the first appointment. I believe the reason why I went to the pulmonologist is because I had tonsil cancer and I think i spit up a tiny bit of blood once. Im not sure if they did an ex ray prior to the procedure or after. It showed ground glass ophicites and well as infiltrate.After all the biopsies were done with the bronchoscopy, nothing was found to be the reason for the bronchiectasis. Since I do not have any symptoms of chronic lung disease I am even question the dx. In addition should they still be looking for the reason I have brochiectasis. You will also need to know that I would up NED and am also considered to have AIDS as opposed to HIV because what the chemo and radiation did to my immune system. I am at a pretty safe enough t cell level now which puts me out of the range of what is considers AIDS but was told that once diagnosised you do not go backwards. I see someone else left a comment with no one answering, i hope more will visit and would be inclined to share their knowledge. Thanks

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