Glossary of Bronchiectasis and Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Lung Disease Terms

acute (uh-kyOOt)

A sudden onset and typically a short period of illness (opposite of chronic).

aerosolized (AIR-uh-sah-liezd)


Dispersed as an aerosol, which is a suspension of tiny particles in gas. Mist and steam are types of aerosols. Aerosolized medicines can be inhaled into the lungs.

airway (AIR-way)

The tubes that carry air through the lungs. In bronchiectasis, they become inflamed and are widened and thickened.

airway clearance device (AIR-way klIR-uhns di-vIEs)

A device which helps loosen and clear mucus from lungs, working by means of vibration of airways, breathing resistance or other method.

airway clearance techniques (AIR-way klIR-uhns tek-neek)

Various techniques that break up mucus, prevent it from building up, and allow for it to be cleared easily.

antibiotics (an-tie-bie-AH-tiks)

Medicines prescribed for an infection caused by bacteria. These drugs do not help with infections caused by viruses or fungi.

anticholinergics (an-tie-koh-luh-nUHR-jiks)

A type of medicine that works to relax the muscles in the airways, allowing them to widen and improve air flow. They are available as rescue relievers and controllers.

arterial blood gas test “ABG” (are-teer-ree-uhl)

A blood test with a sample of blood taken from the artery to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide content in the blood.

alveoli (al-vee-oh-lai)

Millions of tiny sacs at the very ends of the smallest airways/tubes in the lungs. This is where oxygen is absorbed into the blood and carbon dioxide is released from the blood.

bacteria (bak-tear-ee-uh)

Microscopic, single-celled organisms that thrive in diverse environments and can cause infection.

beta-agonists (bay-ta aa-go-nists)

This is a type of medicine that works to relax the muscles in the airways allowing them to widen and improve air flow. They are available as rescue relievers and controllers.

BiPAP machine “bi-level positive airway pressure” (bye pap)

A breathing machine to help with breathing through a tight-fitting mask. This machine may be used in the emergency department or hospital if breathing is too difficult.

bronchial tubes (brawn-key-el)

The larger airways of the lungs.

bronchiectasis (bron-kee-ek-tas-is)

A chronic medical condition in which the walls of the bronchi (airways) are thickened and/or scarred. This can lead to mucus build up in the lungs. Excessive mucus build-up in the airways may lead to repeated infections causing more lung damage.

bronchioles (brawn-key-o-lees)

Smaller airways of the lungs that lead to the alveoli.

bronchodilators (brawn-coe-die-lay-ters)

A type of medicince that works to relax the muscles in the airways allowing them to widen and improve air flow. They are available as rescue relievers and controllers.

bronchoscopy (brahn-kAHs-kuh-pee)

A procedure that allows health care providers to look at your lungs and air passages and collect samples using a flexible tube that is passed through the mouth or nose and then down into the lungs. Your doctor may use this procedure to collect sputum samples if you are unable to cough up sputum.

chest physiotherapy “Chest PT or CPT” (chest fiz-ee-oh-thAIR-uh-pee)

A treatment performed by respiratory therapists that involves tapping on the chest and/or back to shake mucus loose.

chest X-ray (chest x-ray)

A painless radiograph procedure performed to produce an image of your chest in order to assist in the evaluation of cardiac, respiratory, and skeletal structure. Chest x-rays are utilized to diagnose multiple diseases such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

chronic (kron-ick)

Continuing over a long period of time or recurring frequently (opposite of acute).

cilia (seal-lee-ah)

Tiny, hair-like fibers that line the bronchial tubes in the lungs. These fibers help move mucus up through the tubes so it can be coughed out.

comorbidity (co-mor-bid-i-tee)

The presence of one or more disorders (or diseases) in addition to a primary disease or disorder.

computed tomography scan “CT Scan” (kuhm-pyOO-tuhd toh-mAH-gruh-fee scan)

A diagnostic test that uses a series of computerized views taken from different angles to create detailed internal pictures of your body. A computer collects the pictures and puts them in sequence for your doctor.

corticosteroids (kort-te-coe-stair-royds)

Anti-inflammatory medicines that mimic the action of a group of hormones produced by adrenal glands. To treat the lungs, corticosteroids can be inhaled or taken by mouth.

CPAP “continuous positive airway pressure” (see pap)

A technique for pumping a steady flow of air, at a constant pressure, into narrowed lung airways to keep them open. CPAP is used for obstructive sleep apnea and for some people with certain types of respiratory failure.

COPD “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (kron-ik uhb-struck-tiv pull-mon-air-ree)

A term used to describe chronic lung diseases characterized by breathlessness, including emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, in which airflow out of the lung is slowed.

cystic fibrosis “CF” (si-stik figh-bro-​sis)

A genetic chronic lung disease affecting the lungs and other organs, causing recurring lung infections and limited ability to breathe.

diaphragm (die-a-fram)

The muscle that separates the chests cavity from the stomach—the main muscle used for breathing.

dyspnea (disp-nee-yuh)

Shortness of breath. Difficult or labored breathing.

exacerbation (ig-zas-uhr-bAY-shuhn)

A sudden worsening of symptoms, which may require medical attention. Commonly referred to as a “flare” or “flare-up”.

hemoptysis (huh-mop-tuh-suhs)

Coughing up blood.

hypertonic saline (hy-​per-ton-ick say-​lean)

A concentrated salt solution that can thin mucus when it is inhaled into the lungs.

hyperventilation (hi-per-ven-ti-lay-shun)

Rapid breathing often caused by being nervous or panicked; can also be caused by a worsening condition of the lungs.

hypoxia (hi-pock-see-ah)

Too little oxygen in the body.

immune deficiency (im-​mune de-fi-​shen-​cee)

Any disease that makes it hard for the body’s immune system to fight off infection.

infectious disease specialist (in-fek-shuhs dih-zeez spesh-uh-list)

A medical expert who focuses on diseases resulting from the presence of an infection.

inflammation (in-flah-may-shun)

Redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, and heat in an area of the body.

inhaler (in-hell-er)

A portable hand-held device to take inhaled medicine in a couple of breaths.

liquid oxygen “LOX” (lIk-wuhd ahk-su-gin)

Oxygen condensed into a liquid state by extreme cold temperature. A small amount of liquid oxygen is a very large amount of oxygen gas. The big tank at your house can also fill easy-to-carry smaller tanks when you leave your house.

MAC “mycobacterium avium complex” (my-co-bak-tear-ee-um avi-um com-​plex)

MAC is a group of bacteria commonly found in our environment (e.g., water, soil). It is this group of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) that most commonly causes health problems. MAC can cause infection in those with underlying lung conditions such as bronchiectasis.

mucus (mu-kas)

Thick secretions or phlegm found in lungs, airways and sinuses that your body produces to help remove dust, bacteria and other small particles.

nasal cannula (can-you-luh)

Plastic tubing used to supply oxygen through the nose.

nebulizer (neh bew lie zer)

This is a device that delivers liquid medicines in a fine spray or mist. It requires no special coordination. It is a good method for getting drugs directly into the lungs.

non-invasive ventilation (ven-ti-lay-shun)

Ventilation done without using invasive tubes. One example of non-invasive ventilation is Bi-PAP.

nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) (non-too-burr-cue-luhs my-co-bak-tear-ea)

NTM is a large group of bacteria that comes from the environment (ex: soil, water). NTM can cause health problems for people with certain lung diseases or weakened immune systems.

nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease (non-too-burr-cue-luhs my-co-bak-teer-eel lung dih-zeez)

NTM lung disease is when NTM infection causes health problems in the lungs. MAC is the most common NTM to cause NTM lung disease.

oxygen concentrator (ahk-suh-gin con-sin-tray-tor)

A machine used for oxygen therapy. It has a pump that concentrates the amount of oxygen from the air and moves it through a long narrow tube into the nose. There are portable oxygen concentrators available.

oxygen therapy (ahk-su-gin thair-ah-pee)

A medically prescribed system of providing additional oxygen to the body. It is prescribed when diseased lungs are not able to meet the body’s oxygen needs.

percussive vest (per-​cus-​sive)

An inflatable vest that creates vibrations in the chest to help loosen mucus so that it can more easily be coughed out.

pneumonia (new-moan-ya)

A common lung infection caused by germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

postural drainage (pos-​tur-​al drAY-nij)

Positioning a patient so that gravity helps clear lung secretions. The patient is positioned or tilted at an angle usually with head and lungs downward. Chest physical therapy may also be done at the same time.

primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) (prIE-mair-ee sIl-ee-e-ree dis-kuh-nEE-zhuh)

An inherited disorder causing defects of motile (moving) cilia. Motile cilia are required to keep the lungs, sinuses and ears free of organisms and debris that can cause infection and disease. A person with PCD experiences chronic, recurrent infections in the lungs, ears and sinuses due to the loss of ciliary activity in those areas.

pulmonary function testing (PFT) (pull-mon-air-ree funk-​shun test-​ing)

A series of breathing tests that measure how well the lungs take in (inhale) and get rid of (exhale) air. It can also measure how easy it is for oxygen to move from the lungs into the blood.

pulmonary rehabilitation (pull-mon-air-ree re-ha-bill-i-tay-shun)

It is more than just physical therapy. It is a supervised program that includes exercise training, health education, and breathing techniques for people with serious lung diseases.

pulmonologist (pul-mo-​nol-​o-​gist)

A medical specialist who diagnoses and treats lung diseases.

pulse oximetry (ahk-sim-e-tree)

A test that measures how much oxygen is in your blood. The test is easy, and the result is a percentage. A sensor on your finger or ear with a light will be used to measure the oxygen content in your blood. The result of this test may show if you need oxygen therapy.

sleep apnea (app-knee-ah)

A condition in which you stop breathing for too long, too often while you sleep. Can also be when breathing is too shallow during sleep.

spirometry (spuh-rom-ah-tree)

A type of lung function test. It measures how well you breathe out and the largest breath you are able to take in. It is used to help diagnose lung diseases.

sputum (spu-​tuhm)

Sputum or as it is sometimes called, phlegm, is airway mucus and some saliva (“spit”) which are coughed up when clearing the airways.

sputum sample

A test for infection that requires mucus (phlegm) to be spit up from the lungs and mouth.

trachea (tray-key uh)

The largest airway in the respiratory system, sometimes called the windpipe.

vaccination (vac-​ci-​na-shun)

An injection or “shot” that protects the body from getting an infection such as the flu or pneumonia.