Bronchiectasis is among a group of lung disorders classified as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmomary disease. A diagnosis of bronchiectasis is sometimes difficult to make, as bronchiectasis symptoms are often mistaken for other lung disorders, such as chronic bronchitis, asthma or pneumonia.
If your doctor suspects a diagnosis of bronchiectasis, the following tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis:
The first thing that your doctor is likely to do is to take a thorough history and perform a physical examination. This includes asking questions about your health history and environmental exposures to airway irritants, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and workplace exposure to chemicals and other airway irritants. A head to toe assessment will include listening to your lungs with a stethoscope, and examining your chest wall for abnormalities.
Pulmonary function tests help your doctor assess your lung function and determine the amount of damage present in your lungs. There are three types of pulmonary function tests helpful in making a diagnosis of bronchiectasis and other types of COPD:
3. Chest X-Ray
Generally speaking, abnormalities in the lungs due to COPD do not show up until the damage is severe. So, while a chest X-ray does not provide a definitive diagnosis of bronchiectasis or other forms of COPD, it does help support one.
4. Chest CT
Although not routine practice in the diagnosis of bronchiectasis, your doctor may order a chest CT if you've had a change in symptoms, an infection is not resolving, or you are getting ready for surgery.
People with bronchiectasis are prone to frequent lung infections. A sputum culture helps identify specific bacteria in the mucus, which can lead to more efficient treatment.