CHAPTER 9 (Revised March 2009)
Define acute bronchitis
Describe the progression of acute bronchitis with and without intervention
Characterize treatment modalities and therapeutic interventions for acute bronchitis
Bronchitis is inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchial tree. Acute bronchitis is
most commonly caused by infection and chemical irritation. Viral infections represent as many as
95% of all cases in healthy, nonsmoking patients. This chapter discusses acute bronchitis. See
Chapter 10 (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) for a discussion of chronic bronchitis.
TERMINOLOGY (see Chapter 8)
Respiratory diseases remain one of the leading reasons for visits to physicians’ offices. Data
concerning the true prevalence and incidence of acute bronchitis in the ambulatory setting are
scant. Partly because of poor diagnostic criteria, the diagnosis of “acute bronchitis” is frequently
assigned to a variety of acute upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
Patients should be urged to avoid respiratory irritant exposures, especially cigarette smoke. Also,
hand washing practices should be encouraged.
Patients with a recurrent diagnosis of acute bronchitis should be evaluated for other respiratory
diseases and systemic illnesses.
The clinical diagnosis of acute bronchitis is vague because of the absence of clear signs and
symptoms and the lack of definitive laboratory tests. “Acute bronchitis” is a clinical diagnosis
based purely on the clinician’s evaluation of a persistent cough, usually with sputum production
that develops rapidly and concurrently.
Cough is the most frequent complaint associated with acute bronchitis. Patients may describe
“constant” or “frequent” cough, occasionally with “coughing jags” or “coughing fits” that are not
controlled with over-the-counter cough suppressant