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Pulmonary Test Results: Not bad - Not good

Monday, December 03, 2012

Part 1: What The Doctor Said

In October 2012 my doctor of 17 years decided that my breathing issues required further testing. Although most of my symptoms come and go, my doctor decided I needed cardiac and pulmonary tests. My symptoms included:

• Chronic cough with large amounts of sputum
• Coughing up blood (for me this is just occasionally)
• Cough that gets worse when lying on one side
• Fatigue
• Shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise
• Wheezing
• Susceptible to Lung Infections including pneumonia and bronchitis

The first test my doctor ordered was a Stress Echocardiogram. Here is a link to my blog about the Cardiac Stress Echocardiogram. My doctor said, "I want to rule out those things that would kill you." I am OK with that.


The upshot is my ticker is really good. So then my doctor referred my to National Jewish Pulmonary Center.

Over the next two months I went through several horrible and somewhat painful tests including:

• Six Pulmonary Spirometry Tests
• Peripheral Pulmonary Stenosis Test
• Pulmonary Function Test Battery (Big Plastic Box - The Worst)
• Bronchial Provocation Test with Methacholine
• Allergy Prick Skin Test (Itchy)

Last Thursday was the big day. The Pulmonary doctor had examined all the test results. The diagnosis was a bit of a shock. I have a mild form of Acquired Bronchiectasis. What?


Bronchiectasis is destruction and widening of the large airways. Acquired Bronchiectasis is thought to be caused by repeated lung infections. Each infection damages the airways, which leads to the airway becoming flabby and scarred.

Here is a really gross diagram that shows what an extreme case of Bronchiectasis looks like. As the airways widen and lose elasticity, the ability of the lungs to remove mucus diminishes.

I don't think is great news. But I think it is better to know about this condition than just wonder what the heck is going on

Part 2: It Is Not All Bad News

The doctor said that Bronchiectasis was common 50 or 60 years ago. The widespread use of antibiotics to treat lung infections have reduced the occurrence of Bronchiectasis. The symptoms can take many years to develop. When I was in grade school I would have bronchitis every winter . In those days, people did not run to a doctor for every cough, sneeze or sniffle. Big mistake for me.

What is the good news?

My lung capacity is gianormous! Normal male lung capacity for my height and age is 5.8 to 6.4 liters. My lung capacity is over 8 liters. My oxygen absorption rate is 140% of normal, which means my lungs are pretty efficient.

My Pulmonary doctor is runner and cyclist. He said that my lung capacity and efficiency indicates that I am a non-smoker with very good aerobic fitness.

The horrible allergy test was mostly negative. I am not overly allergic to anything. But, unfortunately, the Bronchiectasis can heighten allergic reactions.

Part 3: Treatment

There is no cure. Everything I am already doing such as using an inhaler and nebulizer; taking allergy meds and mucus thinners, are the recommended treatments. In extreme cases the treatment is to cut out the pieces of the lungs!

Yikes! No way!

The doctor also recommended staying at a healthy weight and making sure if I feel a lung infection coming on, to get antibiotics immediately.

He also said keep exercising.

Talk about motivation and incentives! Keep fit or end up losing chunks of my of lungs!

Thanks for reading my blog.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    2264 days ago
    Yuck, I would not want my lungs cut into either! Last year one of my daughters (age 29) had to have her lungs scraped due to a pneumonia that would not respond to antibiotics and it was a major surgery and very painful. It was called a thoracotomy and the incision was made along the back and side. It is tough to find out there isn't a cure, but at the same time if you continue to work toward a good weight and keep doing the exercise you're doing and follow the doctor's plan you can still do a lot of things and achieve the goals you want to. Maybe you won't be quite as fast as you would like, I don't know, but you can still do them and do them well. You're already proving that.
    2264 days ago
    Glad the news wasn't too bad. Very happy you've gone through all of the tests and there is nothing immediately life threatening. Keep up the exercise.
    As we get older the tests get more frequent and scarier.

    2265 days ago
    Tough news, yes, but good news too in that you've got a heckuva processing plant going on in that chest and it sounds like it's going to keep you going for some time to come!
    Motivation and incentive, yes. Keep up your great work and enjoying all that you do.
    emoticon emoticon
    2265 days ago
  • BILL60
    Bottom line, start training for a 100-miler now cause it'll do you good. Hang tough my friend and overcome.
    2265 days ago
    i think it's really good to know you're supposed to see the doctor or start antibiotics right away ... because that is exactly the kind of thing some of us of our generation do not do. i know i always feel like a hypochondriac for something like that. so it's good to know it's important to do it. now that you know and the doctor knows (and your wife knows), i'm pretty sure you'll be ok -- especially with that ginormous lung capacity.
    2265 days ago
    I'm glad you got some answers and the condition is controllable. I know you'll follow doctor's orders.
    2266 days ago
    Well, I believe it's always better to know what is going on - in your case it is essential - now you know what it is and know to get an antibiotic right away to prevent it from getting worse. Did he say anything about saline drops up the nose twice a day? And, an air machine to clean the air in your bedroom? Both help me tremendously with my allergies.

    I do happy that you exercise!! What a huge plus!
    2266 days ago
    Glad you were at least able to find out what it is. Like you said it may be good news but it's not the worse news possible either. Keep doing what your doing. Hope things get better for you and the symptons get better too.
    2266 days ago
    Good news and bad news. You have great lungs and aerobic capacity - that's really good news. Wonder if fighting for air and coughing has helped improve your lungs? I too have great lung capacity, despite having pneumonia as a young kid. I grew up on the beach and swam all day during the summer. My lungs are terrifc to this day.

    Keep up the exercising and good attitude!
    2266 days ago
    Well Mr. Dog,
    Looks like you have a diagnosis, what sounds like a stable condition that can be controlled and great incentive. Make it to 95 like the prior blogger's aunt. Then worry about that "extreme" treatment...
    2266 days ago
    Dear Bruce,
    Great incentives indeed! Keep moving forward. The truth from the doc will keep you working harder than ever.
    Thanks for the post!
    2266 days ago
    Yikes! I vote for keeping your lungs.... but somehow I think you'll manage. emoticon
    2266 days ago
  • NUMD97
    Hi, Bruce. If it's of any consolation to you, my 95-year old aunt has bronchiectasis and has had it for decades. Like you, she maximized her health at a very young age, but your doctor has a point: In the pre-antibiotic era, ca. early 1940s, the medical establishment was limited in their armamentarium, until the birth of the antibiotic age, with the discovery of sulfa in 1935 (if memory serves). The 'cillins came around about the end of The Second World War and many things changed very dramatically.

    As you yourself have stated, you've optimized your health, and your lung capacity is to die for. I would hazard a guess that this was a big factor in you not feeling much worse as the early symptoms started developing. All in all, as you said, you're quite the lucky man.

    Your blog is a great motivator for the rest of us in the trenches to get more on board with the program.

    Thanks for posting and all the best,

    2266 days ago
    Good incentives to keep doing what you love. Bad news, but at least you know!
    2266 days ago
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