Bronchitis (Acute)

– A self-limited inflammation of the tracheobronchial tree.

Causes and Incidence

The condition is caused either by irritants (e.g., dust, noxious fumes, or smoke) or by a viral or bacterial infection. It often occurs in conjunction with other disease processes such as influenza, bronchiectasis, emphysema, or tuberculosis. It is more common in the winter months and is generally mild.

Disease Process

Congestion of the mucous membranes is followed by desquamation and edema of the submucosa. This interferes with the functioning of the cilia, phagocytes, and lymphatics, resulting in production of a sticky exudate that lines the tracheobronchial tree until it is coughed up. The exudate is an excellent medium for secondary infection.


Acute bronchitis is often preceded by an upper respiratory infection. The most common presenting sign is a dry, hacking cough that increasingly produces viscous mucus.

Potential Complications

Pneumonia is the most common complication. Acute respiratory failure occurs in some individuals with underlying pulmonary disease.

Diagnostic Tests

The diagnosis is usually made from the type of cough and sputum. Chest x-rays are taken to rule out other disorders. Arterial blood gases are monitored when underlying chronic disease is present, and sputum is cultured for evidence of superimposed infection.


Surgery – None.

Antiinfective drugs with concomitant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or superimposed infection; antipyretics for fever.

Rest, increased fluids, steam vaporizer.