Oral methylxanthines for bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a lung condition that usually develops after a series of lung problems (such as childhood infections, lung structure problems, tuberculosis, and cystic fibrosis). Mucus (phlegm) collects in the lungs, causing discomfort and infections. Muscle spasms can also narrow the airways (passages to the lungs), causing breathing problems. Drugs to relax the muscles in the airways can help. Methyl-xanthine drugs (such as caffeine, theophylline and aminophylline) can affect the muscles, and are sometimes used for other lung diseases. They can have adverse effects. The review found there are no trials of the use of methyl-xanthines for people with bronchiectasis.

Authors' conclusions: 

Further research is required to establish if the methyl-xanthines have a role in the treatment of bronchiectasis.

Read the full abstract...

Bronchiectasis is characterised by chronic sputum production, bronchial wall dilation, recurrent infection and airflow limitation. Methylxanthines are used in the management of airflow limitation associated with asthma and COPD, where they are also purported to have anti-inflammatory properties. In theory they may be of use in bronchiectasis.


To determine the efficacy of methyl-xanthines in the treatment of bronchiectasis.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register was searched using the terms: aminophylline, theophylline, methyl-xanthine and synonyms. The most recent search was carried out in March 2010.

Selection criteria: 

Only randomised controlled trials were to be considered.

Data collection and analysis: 

The results of the searches were reviewed by two authors. Searches yielded seven trials, none of which met the inclusion criteria.

Main results: 

No randomised controlled trials were identified. An update search was carried out in March 2010. No further trials were identified for possible inclusion.

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