About COPD and Bronchiectasis (COPD-Bronchiectasis Overlap)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term utilized to describe chronic lung diseases including emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, frequent coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest. To learn more about COPD, click here.

Bronchiectasis is a condition in which the small airways of the lungs are widened, scarred, and inflamed making it difficult to clear mucus out of the lungs, which in turn, can cause repeated lung infections. To learn more about bronchiectasis, click here.

There is significant overlap between COPD and bronchiectasis. A retrospective study analyzing Medicare data from a group of bronchiectasis patients revealed that nearly half of individuals with bronchiectasis in the U.S. also have COPD, and these individuals are known to experience more lung infections and hospitalizations than those without COPD.1 Additionally, it has been reported that between 8% and 30% of individuals with COPD have bronchiectasis. 2,3

Although COPD and bronchiectasis are related diseases and airway clearance techniques are helpful for both conditions, the medications and other treatments used for COPD and bronchiectasis are different.

It is very important if you have cough that produces a lot of phlegm (also known as mucus or sputum) and experience repeated lung infections, that you ask your health care provider to test you for bronchiectasis (usually diagnosed with a CT scan), COPD or both.

Bronchiectasis COPD Overlap Diagram

Click here to view/download a pdf version of the above diagram.


1Henkle E, Chan B, Curtis JR, et al. Characteristics and Health-care Utilization History of Patients With Bronchiectasis in US Medicare Enrollees With Prescription Drug Plans, 2006 to 2014. Chest. 2018; 154(6): 1272-1273. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2018.07.014
2Dou S, Zheng C, Cui L, et al. High prevalence of bronchiectasis in emphysema-predominant COPD patients. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2018; 13: 2041–2047. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.2147%2FCOPD.S163243
3Hurst JR, Elborn JS, De Soyza A. COPD–bronchiectasis overlap syndrome. Eur Resp J. 2015; 45: 310-313. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1183/09031936.00170014

This page was reviewed on September 22, 2020 by the Bronchiectasis and NTM Content Review and Evaluation Committee.