Bronchial Thermoplasty: how it's changing the face of asthma

With inhalers and medication, most people can get their asthma under control, but there are some patients who live in fear that the next asthma attack could take them to the emergency room.

"You think about death because when you can't get that breath in it's such a miserable feeling," says Nicole Moses who suffers from asthma.

But now, Nicole is trying something new, called bronchial thermoplasty. It uses heat to soothe the breathing tubes. When they become inflamed over time, then can thicken and then tighten up even more during an asthma attack.

But, in this procedure, after anesthesia is given, the doctor inserts a flexible tube through the mouth or nose guiding it to lungs. Then a special tip from the tube is extended, which uses radio waves to heat the smooth muscle. It takes three treatments to heat up enough of the muscle to make a difference. So far, studies are showing significant changes.

"Over 30% reductions in asthma exacerbations and about a 80% or so reduction in visits to the emergency rooms, hospitalizations," says Dr. Avi Ishaaya.

"It was like a weight had been lifted I didn't have to worry from dying from asthma or not being able to breath," adds Moses.

Dr. Ishaaya, says that in most patients, the benefits last at least 5 years.

The procedure does not replace an inhaler but should reduce the need for it. It can be costly, nearly $15,000. But, that can be a lot cheaper than hospitalizations, which is why some insurance companies are paying for it.

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