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.