A bronchocele is a part of the bronchus that is filled with
mucous and which is completely enclosed so that the
mucous has no way to drain out. A bronchus is a type
of small airway connected to the lungs. The part of the
bronchus in a bronchocele is typically widened.
Bronchoceles can be caused by obstructions such as
scarring, a tumor, a stricture (narrowing of a tube-
shaped structure), presence of foreign body, or
abnormal closure from birth (known as congenital
atresia). Tumors are abnormal masses of tissue that
form when cells in a certain area of the body reproduce
at an increased rate. This is a rare cause of a
bronchocele but when it happens it is usually caused by
A bronchocele shown on imaging.
A carcinoma is any malignant cancer that arises from cells in the covering surface layer
or membrane (outer covering) that lines an organ of the body. Cancer is any of a large
group of malignant diseases characterized by an abnormal, uncontrolled growth of new
cells in one of the body organs or tissues. Another type of tumor that can cause a
bronchocele is an adenoma, which is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor of a gland.
A non-obstructive cause of a bronchocele is asthma because people with asthma are
predisposed to infection from aspergillus (a type of mold). This is known as allergic
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When the body produces too much mucous, this can lead to
formation of a bronchocele, such as in asthma and cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis is a disease passed down through families that
causes thick mucous to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and
other areas of the body. Another cause of a bronchocele is
tuberculosis (a type of lung infection).
shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, fatigue, spitting up mucous,
and coughing up blood or blood-stained products. In some cases,
there may be no signs or symptoms.
Bronchoceles can be detected via a chest x-ray but is best diagnosed via a CT scan of the chest. CT
(computerized tomography) scanning is an advanced imaging technique that uses x-rays and computer
technology to produce more clear and detailed pictures than a traditional x-ray. These diagnostic imaging
techniques can reveal multiple bronchoceles in a single patient. Bronchoceles are usually bigger than one
centimeter and will appear to have branching fingers on an x-ray. Both the chest x-ray and the CT may
show that air has been trapped in the region of the bronchocele. If the lung collapses due to obstruction,
an x-ray will be unable to identify the bronchocele but a CT scan will still be able to detect it.
Bronchoceles can be managed by treating the underlying cause (e.g., antibiotics). Physical therapy may
also be a part of treatment. In some cases, surgical removal of the obstruction may be needed. This can
be done via a bronchoscopy, in which a device is passed through the mouth or nose, through the
windpipe, and into the lungs. During this procedure, a biopsy can be performed. A biopsy is the process of
removing living tissue or cells from organs or other body parts of patients for examination under a
microscope or in a culture to help make a diagnosis, follow the course of a disease, or estimate a
prognosis. A culture is an artificial way to grow cells or tissues in the laboratory.
If mucous drainage in the bronchus is not obstructed, the condition is referred to as a mucoid impaction of
bronchus. Bronchocele comes from the Greek word “bronchus” meaning “windpipe,” and the Latin word
“kele” meaning “hernia.” Put the words together and you get “windpipe hernia.”