Which physical findings suggest bronchiectasis?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020
  • Author: Ethan E Emmons, MD; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Findings are nonspecific and may be attributed to other conditions. Most commonly, crackles, rhonchi, wheezing, and inspiratory squeaks may be heard upon auscultation. General findings may include digital clubbing, cyanosis, plethora, wasting, and weight loss. Nasal polyps and signs of chronic sinusitis may also be present. In advanced disease, the physical stigmata of cor pulmonale may be observed. Note the following:

  • Crackles and rhonchi are often observed in association with active infections and acute exacerbations

  • Crackles are nonspecific and may occur in as many as 73% of patients [81]

  • Scattered wheezing may be heard in approximately one third of patients; wheezing may be due to airflow obstruction from secretions, destruction of the bronchial tree leading to airway collapsibility, or a concomitant condition [17, 81]

  • Digital clubbing is an inconsistent finding in approximately 2-3% of patients [81] ; it is more frequent in patients with moderate-to-severe bronchiectasis

  • Cyanosis and plethora are rare findings secondary to polycythemia from chronic hypoxia.

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