Bronchiolitis is inflammation of the bronchioles, the smallest air passages of the lungs.


The term usually refers to acute viral bronchiolitis, a common disease in infancy. This is most commonly caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV, also known as human pneumovirus). (ICD10|J|21|0|j|20)

Other viruses which may cause this illness include metapneumovirus, influenza, parainfluenza, coronavirus, adenovirus, and rhinovirus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published a clinical practice guideline for the [;118/4/1774 Diagnosis and Management of Bronchiolitis] , including a review of the evidence and recommendations.

Diagnosis and Recovery

In a typical case, an infant under two years of age develops cough, wheeze, and shortness of breath over one or two days. The diagnosis is made by clinical examination. Chest X-ray is sometimes useful to exclude pneumonia, but not indicated in routine cases.

Testing for specific viral cause (e.g. RSV by nasopharyngeal aspirate) is common, but has little effect on management. Identification of RSV-positive patients can be helpful for::*disease surveillance:*grouping ("cohorting") patients together in hospital wards as to prevent cross infection:*predicting whether the disease course has peaked yet:*reducing the need for other diagnostic procedures (by providing confidence that a cause has been identified).

The infant may be breathless for several days. After the acute illness, it is common for the airways to remain sensitive for several weeks, leading to recurrent cough and wheeze.

There is a possible link with later asthma: possible explanations are that bronchiolitis causes asthma by inducing long term inflammation, or that children who are destined to be asthmatic are more susceptible to develop bronchiolitis.


There is no effective specific treatment for bronchiolitis. Therapy is principally supportive. Frequent small feeds are encouraged to maintain hydration as evidenced by good urine output, and sometimes oxygen may be required to maintain blood oxygen levels. Suction of the nasopharynx is often performed to maintain a clear airway. In severe cases the infant may need to be fed via a nasogastric tube or it may even need intravenous fluids. In extreme cases, mechanical ventilation (for example, using CPAP) might be necessary.

Bronchodilator drugs such as salbutamol/albuterol or ipratropium are no longer recommended, but many clinicians offer a trial dose to see if there is any benefit (especially if there is a family history of asthma, since it can be difficult to clinically distinguish bronchiolitis from a viral-induced asthma). Racemic epinephrine is another drug that is sometimes given.

Ribavirin is an antiviral drug which has a controversial role in treating RSV infection. There is no proven benefit but it is used sometimes for infants with pre-existing lung, heart or immune disease. Antibiotics are often given in case of a bacterial infection complicating bronchiolitis, but have no effect on the underlying viral infection.

Corticosteroids have no proven benefit in bronchiolitis treatment and are not advised.

There is some interest in the use of hypertonic saline in bronchiolitis. Initially recommended for use in cystic fibrosis patients, it is speculated to increase hydration of secretions, thus facilitating their removal.


In general, prevention of bronchiolitis relies on measures to reduce the spread of the viruses that cause respiratory infections (that is, handwashing, and avoiding exposure to those symptomatic with respiratory infections).

Premature infants, and others with certain majory cardiac and respiratory disorders, can receive passive immunization with Palivizumab (a monoclonal antibody against RSV). This form of passive immunization therapy requires monthly injections every winter. Whether it could benefit infants with lung problems secondary to muscular dystrophies and other vulnerable groups is currently unknown

ee also

*Respiratory syncytial virus

External links

* [ Bronchiolitis] . Patient information from NHS Direct
*PDF| [ Bronchiolitis in children - A national clinical guideline] |1.74 MiB from the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • bronchiolitis — ronchiolitis n. inflammation of the membranes lining the bronchioles. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Bronchiolitis —   die, /... tiden, Bronchitis capillaris, Form der Bronchitis, bei der die feinsten Äste des Bronchialbaumes (Bronchiolen) erfasst sind. * * * Bron|chi|o|li|tis, die; , ...itiden [zu ↑Bronchiole] ( …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Bronchiolitis — Klassifikation nach ICD 10 J21 Akute Bronchiolitis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bronchiolitis — Inflammation of the bronchioles, part of the respiratory tree. The bronchioles are part of the airways that extend beyond the bronchi and terminate in the alveoli where oxygen exchange occurs. Bronchiolitis is most commonly due to viral… …   Medical dictionary

  • bronchiolitis — n. inflammation of the small airways in the lungs (the bronchioles) due to viral infection, usually the respiratory syncytial virus. Bronchiolitis occurs in epidemics and is commonest in infants of less than one year. The bronchioles become… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • bronchiolitis — noun Etymology: New Latin Date: 1887 inflammation of the bronchioles …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • bronchiolitis — noun inflammation of the bronchioles; especially common in young children …   Wiktionary

  • Bronchiolitis — Bron|chio|li̱tis [zu ↑Bronchiole] w; , ...liti̱den (in fachspr. Fügungen:̱tides): Entzündung der Bronchiolen …   Das Wörterbuch medizinischer Fachausdrücke

  • Bronchiolitis — Bron|chi|o|li|tis die; , ...itiden <zu ↑...itis> Entzündung der feinsten Äste des Bronchialbaumes (Med.) …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • bronchiolitis — n. inflammation of the bronchioles (Medicine) …   English contemporary dictionary

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