Bronchiectasis is diagnosed based on your signs and symptoms, as well as your medical history, family history, and test results. If your doctor suspects you have bronchiectasis, they will likely perform tests designed to identify the underlying cause of your bronchiectasis and rule out other causes for your symptoms, as well as to determine how much the airways have been damaged.
Procedures used to diagnose bronchiectasis include:
- Chest X-ray: creates a picture showing the structures in the chest. X-ray images can show irregular airway’s walls or areas where the lung tissue is abnormal or has thickened. X-ray images are not as detailed as CT images
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: scans that provide detailed images of the chest as well as the structures inside and outside the lungs. Doctors can visually inspect these images to see areas where the lungs have been damaged and determine how serious that damage is
- Lung function tests: measure how much air you can breathe in and out, how fast you can breathe out, and how well your lungs deliver oxygen to the blood. The most common lung function test is called spirometry and measures how much air you can breathe out after taking a deep breath and how fast you can expel the air
- Blood test: blood tests may show whether bronchiectasis is caused by an underlying condition, such as cystic fibrosis, or whether an infection that may be causing lung damage is present
- Sputum culture: involves examining a sputum sample under a microscope to determine whether certain bacteria or fungi are present