Nariman Malik, BSc
The word bronchiectasis is derived from the Greek words bronchos, meaning windpipe, and ektasis, which means extension or stretching.1 Bronchiectasis is defined as the abnormal and persistent dilatation of bronchi due to destructive changes in the elastic and muscular layers of the bronchial wall.2 It is a condition that can affect airways of all sizes but tends to mainly affect medium-sized airways. It can be either focal, affecting the air supply to a limited region of lung parenchyma, or diffuse in nature. Bronchiectasis most often is a consequence of chronic or recurrent infections and the associated secretions that pool in these airways.3
In North America, fewer and fewer patients present with gross disease.4 The advent of antibiotics has lead to a dramatic decrease in severe respiratory infections and the subsequent development of bronchiectasis. However, because its incidence has decreased in developed countries, it is now believed that low clinical suspicion is a factor in the underdiagnosis of bronchiectasis.5 Bronchiectasis is characterized by the production of large amounts of sputum, which is also a defining trait of chronic bronchitis. As such, patients who are producing copious amounts of sputum and who smoke are likely to be misdiagnosed with chronic bronchitis.