ORLANDO, Fla. (June 12, 2012) — Doctors at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) are delivering heat directly to the source to treat patients with severe asthma - a respiratory disease that causes the airways in the lungs to narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Bronchial thermoplasty, an innovative technique that uses radiofrequency, helps patients breathe easier by lessening the severity of asthma attacks and preventing future attacks. ORMC is the first hospital in Central Florida, and currently the only, offering the option for the more than one million across the country struggling with the chronic condition characterized by persistent shortness of breath, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and asthma-related deaths.
Bronchial thermoplasty with the Alair® System, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, treats severe asthma by going to the source. The lungs consist of multiple airway passages that are surrounded by airway smooth muscle. For people with asthma, this airway smooth muscle is more susceptible to triggers and irritants that can cause it to constrict and reduce the amount of air that flows through the lungs.
“Bronchial thermoplasty remodels the airway smooth muscle,” said Mark Vollenweider, MD, MPH, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at ORMC. “Using a small catheter we deliver controlled energy to the airways of the lung to reduce the amount of excessive airway smooth muscle. The reduction decreases the muscle’s ability to constrict the airways, resulting in a decreased occurrence of asthma attacks. It is the constricting or tightening of the muscles that causes breathing problems when someone is having an asthma attack.”
The cycle of treatment, includes three procedures occurring three weeks apart.
“This is a game changer for patients with severe asthma,” said Dr. Vollenweider. “This is the first type of asthma treatment I have seen that changes someone’s life in such a remarkable way with almost no complications and with low long-term risk.”
Patient outcomes have been positive and lives restored, sometimes soon after the first procedure within the treatment cycle.
“Many patients are able to discontinue breathing medications and some are able to stop using steroids,” said Dr. Vollenweider. “This is significant improvement to their health because medications to treat severe asthma often lead to diabetes, osteoporosis, and other medical conditions.”
Research shows the life changing results maybe lasting.
“Ten years of research and seven years of safety data shows the benefits from a complete treatment cycle remain five to seven years later,” said Dr. Vollenweider. “Patients may experience a 32 percent reduction in the number of asthma attacks and a 73 to 84 percent reduction of hospital and emergency department visits.”
A groundbreaking treatment option like bronchial thermoplasty is especially significant given the unknowns of asthma.
“We don’t know exactly why asthma occurs,” said Dr. Vollenweider. “It is believed to be the result of bronchial smooth muscles constricting and/or inflammation of the airways. The unknowns make treatment a challenge. Inhalers, steroids and other medications work well for some, but not so well for others.”
Asthma is considered a serious public health problem, impacting nearly 25 million Americans. The condition is one of the top five chronic diseases globally, along with heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. In patients with severe asthma, traditional treatment methods including inhalers and daily steroid medications do not always prevent frequent and life-threatening asthma attacks. In 2007, asthma resulted in approximately 12.8 million people experiencing asthmas attacks, 1.75 million emergency room visits, 456,000 hospitalizations and 3,447 asthma-related deaths. Severe asthma can adversely impact the quality of life for patients including limiting or impacting their ability to complete daily living tasks, work, and hobbies and enjoy other life enrichments.
About Orlando Health
Orlando Health is a $1.9 billion not-for-profit health care organization and a community-based network of hospitals and care centers throughout Central Florida. The organization, which includes the area’s only Level One Trauma Centers for adults and pediatrics, is a statutory teaching hospital system that offers both specialty and community hospitals. They are: Orlando Regional Medical Center; Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children; Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies; Dr. P. Phillips Hospital; South Seminole Hospital; Health Central Hospital, South Lake Hospital (50 percent affiliation); St. Cloud Regional Medical Center (20 percent affiliation) and MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando – the first affiliate of one of the nation’s premier cancer centers, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Orlando Health’s areas of clinical excellence are heart and vascular, cancer care, neurosciences, surgery, pediatric orthopedics and sports medicine, neonatology, and obstetrics and gynecology.
Orlando Health is one of Central Florida’s largest employers with nearly 16,000 employees and more than 2,500 affiliated physicians supporting our philosophy of providing high quality care and service that revolves around patients’ needs. We prove this everyday with over 110,000 inpatient admissions and nearly 690,000 outpatient visits each year. In all, Orlando Health serves 1.6 million Central Florida residents and nearly 3,000 international patients annually. Additionally, Orlando Health provides approximately $239 million in support of community health needs. More information can be found at www.orlandohealth.com.