How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?

Find out how bronchiectasis is diagnosed. We also have information about the outlook for bronchiectasis.

Tests to diagnose bronchiectasis

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and your medical history. If your doctor thinks you might have bronchiectasis, they will refer you for more tests.

The main way to test and diagnose bronchiectasis is a high-resolution CT scan.

You may have other tests to help with treatment, find out the underlying cause, the severity of the condition, and to look for other conditions. These tests may include:  

  • a chest X-ray 
  • phlegm (sputum) samples to test for bacteria
  • blood tests to check how well your immune system is working
  • spirometry to measure how well your lungs are working
  • bronchoscopy to take samples of tissue from your lungs. This is done under local anaesthetic, so you won’t feel anything.

If you have bronchiectasis, your doctor may hear a crackling sound when listening to your chest, normally in the lower lungs.  

Outlook for bronchiectasis

Some people with bronchiectasis have very few symptoms, and their condition remains stable. Others may have more severe symptoms, and the condition may get worse over time.

We know you may worry about the future, so talk to your healthcare professional. You can ask them any questions you may have. Remember – a lot of people manage very well living with bronchiectasis.

You can also call our Helpline to speak with a respiratory nurse on 0300 222 5800, 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday (excluding Bank Holidays). They’re here to answer your questions and concerns.

Get support

Call or WhatsApp our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

Did you find this information useful?

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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