Bronchial thermoplasty is a relatively recently invented treatment for severe asthma. Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease that affects the airways of your lung. It can cause recurring symptoms of reversible airflow obstruction, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath, causing episodes that may occur several times weekly or even daily. Asthma symptoms can become worse at night or with exercise. There is no cure for asthma; although symptoms can be prevented. Severe cases of asthma have been helped with bronchial thermoplasty, which was approved by the FDA in 2010.
Bronchial Thermoplasty & Asthma
Bronchial thermoplasty uses controlled, therapeutic radiofrequency energy that is delivered to the wall of your airway. This energy heats up your tissues and reduces the amount of smooth muscle present in your airway wall. This treatment causes acute epithelial (tissue) destruction with regeneration observed in the epithelium, blood vessels, mucosa, and nerves. Your airway smooth muscle has almost no capacity for regeneration; instead it replaces itself with connective tissue.
If you are having a full course of bronchial thermoplasty treatment, you will undergo three separate bronchoscopic procedures that address the lower lobe and both upper lobes of your lung. One procedure addresses the lower lobe of your lung, the next addresses the other lower lobe of your lung, and the third addresses both upper lobes of your lungs.
Each outpatient bronchial thermoplasty treatment procedure is performed about three weeks apart. To go through three treatments would take at least twelve weeks.
You will be placed under sedation. A catheter that is inside a bronchoscope (a thin, flexible tube-like instrument inserted through your nose or mouth, and into your lungs) helps deliver thermal energy into your airway. You will be monitored after your procedure, and you can usually return home either that same day or early the following day. The catheter that is inside the bronchoscope delivers a series of ten-second bursts of temperature controlled bursts of radio frequency energy. These ten second busts will heat the lining of your lungs to a temperature of 65 degrees Celsius, or 149 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat will destroy some of the muscle tissue that constricts during your asthma attacks, which ends up reducing them in number and severity.
Studies have shown that adults with severe asthma symptoms that have been treated with bronchial thermoplasty have experienced an improvement in their symptoms. They also reported experiencing an overall improvement in the asthma-related quality of their lives. The people in the study also experienced great benefits. Patients experienced a 32% reduction in asthma attacks after bronchial thermoplasty treatment. Patients experiened a 66% reduction in days absent from work, school, or other daily activities because of their asthma symptoms. Patients reported a 73% reduction in hospitalizations and an 84% reduction in emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms.
You may experience a reduction in asthma attacks, ER visits, and hospitalizations for your respiratory symptoms for at least 5 years. However, you will still have to take your standard asthma medications (combinations of inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting bronchodilators) for your symptoms.
In the period that immediately follows your bronchial thermoplasty procedure, there will be an expected and temporary increase in the frequency and severity of your respiratory-related symptoms.
Bronchial thermoplasty is available at various hospitals throughout the United States. Bronchial thermoplasty was first approved by the FDA in April of 2010. Bronchial thermoplasty procedures are now being used as a treatment for asthma in many countries outside of the United States. Countries in Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia have all approved the use of bronchial thermoplasty treatment.
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