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Procedure Provides Hope for People with Asthma

June 21, 2015

Anyone who has ever had an asthma attack understands how frightening it can be. The symptoms—neck and chest tightness, wheezing and difficulty breathing—can present as other medical conditions, and often make it difficult for many people to carry on everyday activities.

More than 25 million Americans have asthma, a chronic lung condition that inflames and tightens the airways, leading to shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and several other symptoms.

Asthma sufferers typically have relied on long-term control and quick-relief medications to control these symptoms. Long-term control medications ease airway inflammation and prevent symptoms, while quick-relief medications, such as inhalers, relieve asthma symptoms during a flare-up.

However, people with asthma now have more treatment options. A relatively new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty could help millions of people with this chronic disease better cope. Bronchial thermoplasty is the first non-drug therapy the Food and Drug Administration has approved for severe asthma. The procedure benefits people whose asthma is still not well controlled even with their current medication.

What to Expect

During a bronchial thermoplasty, doctors place a bronchoscope into a person’s airway and deliver controlled heat into the lungs to shrink the smooth muscles. These muscles become inflamed during an asthma attack, making it difficult for someone to breathe. Bronchial thermoplasty minimizes this inflammation. People who undergo the procedure typically have fewer asthma attacks, miss less time from work and have improved quality of life afterward.  One study conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine even showed that people who underwent treatment reduced their asthma attacks by a third and their emergency room visits by more than 80 percent.

As of 2012, more than 650 people across the country have had bronchial thermoplasty, an outpatient procedure that typically occurs in three stages, three weeks apart. Doctors treat a different part of the lungs during each session, sending targeted heat to the lower and the upper lobes of the lungs to ease asthma symptoms.

Bronchial thermoplasty is very safe and most people return to work the next day. Some people may experience some coughing and other respiratory symptoms after treatment, but these things are temporary side effects and the treatment largely has positive results for most people with asthma.

Qualifying for Bronchial Thermoplasty

Not everyone will be a right fit for bronchial thermoplasty. Though 7 million children suffer from asthma, this procedure is best suited for adults 18 to 65. You also must have severe or persistent asthma that isn’t well controlled by medications and you cannot have smoked within the last year.

Asthma is a very challenging chronic condition, but bronchial thermoplasty offers new hope to many people living with asthma. For more information, view this video. To determine if you are a candidate for this procedure, please contact Dr. Vollenweider’s office at (321) 841-7856.