BronchiectasisComplications

In some cases, people with bronchiectasis can develop serious complications that require emergency treatment.

In some cases, people with bronchiectasis can develop serious complications that require emergency treatment.

Coughing up large amounts of blood

A rare, but serious, complication of bronchiectasis is coughing up large amounts of blood (the medical term for this is massive haemoptysis).

This can occur when a section of one of the blood vessels supplying the lungs suddenly splits open.

Symptoms that may indicate massive haemoptysis include:

  • coughing up more than 100ml of blood in a 24-hour period – 100ml is roughly equivalent to a third of a can of drink
  • breathing difficulties – caused by blood obstructing your airways
  • feeling lightheaded and dizzy, and having cold, clammy skin – caused by rapid blood loss

Massive haemoptysis is a medical emergency. If you think someone is experiencing massive haemoptysis, call 999 for an ambulance.

A person with massive haemoptysis needs to be admitted to hospital. A tube may need to be placed into their throat to assist them with their breathing.

A procedure called a bronchial artery embolisation (BAE) will be required to stop the bleeding.

During a BAE, a special dye is injected into your arteries so they show up clearly on X-rays.

Then, using X-ray scans as a guide, the source of the bleeding is located and injected with tiny particles, around the size of a grain of sand, that will help clog the vessel up and stop the bleeding.

Page last reviewed: 29/05/2018
Next review due: 29/05/2021