Revolutionary New Treatment for Patients With Severe Asthma

By James Pearl MD

180,000 adults and 60,000 children have asthma in Utah. The disease results in nearly 1,500 hospitalizations and more than 7,000 trips to the emergency room each year, according to the Utah Department of Health. It also results in nearly 3,500 deaths a year nationally.

Asthma Graphic Pearl Post
To understand what it’s like to have asthma, take in a deep breath and hold it; then without letting any air out, take another deep breath and hold that. Physically your brain wants to breathe in deeper but what your body needs is to exhale.

But a revolutionary new treatment, called bronchial thermoplasty (BT), provides a new treatment option for patients with severe asthma.

BT therapy uses mild heat energy to treat the airways of the lung, reducing the ability of airway muscle spasms to obstruct the airway, allowing patients to breathe more freely. It is designed for adults who struggle to control their asthma with standard asthma medication.

Until now, medication has been pretty much our only tool for fighting severe asthma. But some people don’t respond well to the drugs we use. For those people, this technology may reduce life-threatening episodes of severe asthma.

In fact, studies conducted one year after BT treatment have shown: 
  • 79 percent of patients who were treated with BT saw significant improvements in their asthma-related quality of life.
  • 32 percent reduction in severe asthma attacks 
  • 84 percent fewer emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms 
  • 66 percent fewer lost days of work, school, and other daily activities due to asthma
Additionally, data from a recently concluded five-year study has shown:
  • Effectiveness of BT is maintained out to five yearsA 48% average decrease over 5 years in severe exacerbation event rates
  • A reduction in severe exacerbations requiring oral corticosteroids
  • A 88% average decrease over five years in the rate of ER visits for respiratory symptoms
  • Long-term patient safety is maintained
The procedure is minimally invasive and begins when a physician inserts a small bronchoscope through the patient's mouth or nose and into the lungs. The tip of the catheter is expanded to contact the walls of the targeted airways. Controlled bursts of mild heat are then delivered. The procedure is performed under moderate sedation or light anesthesia, and the patient typically goes home the same day.

Treatment includes three outpatient visits, scheduled approximately three weeks apart; after all three procedures are performed, treatment is complete.

Patients who are 18 or over and who struggle with asthma that is not well controlled with medication may be candidates for treatment. For more information, patients should contact their allergist or primary care physician for a referral, or go to BTforAsthma.com to learn more.