For the estimated two million adults with severe asthma who continue to have asthma-related symptoms despite standard of care medications, bronchial thermoplasty (BT) is a new treatment option that may help provide better control of symptoms.
BT is a safe, effective procedure that reduces the amount of smooth muscle in the airway to prevent constriction, improving breathing and reducing the frequency of asthma attacks.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation of the airway, leading to symptoms such as:
- Coughing, especially at night
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness, pain or pressure
While there is no cure for asthma, lifestyle changes and medications can help control symptoms. Some severe asthma sufferers, however, often see little to no relief from their symptoms even with the use of inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta-agonists. BT provides another treatment option for these patients who continue to struggle with their symptoms.
How Bronchial Thermoplasty Works
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. BT uses a small catheter to deliver controlled energy to the airways of the lung to reduce the amount of airway smooth muscle. This reduction decreases the muscle's ability to constrict the airways, resulting in a decreased frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Bronchial thermoplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure over three sessions, typically scheduled three weeks apart, each treating a different part of the lung. During each session, the BT device applies mild heat to the muscles in your airway through a bronchoscope inserted through the nose or mouth. The sessions are usually performed under moderate sedation and take less than an hour to complete. Once the three sessions have been performed, the treatment is complete, and most patients return to their regular asthma-treating physician for regular, ongoing management of their asthma.
Benefits of Bronchial Thermoplasty
BT is clinically proven to reduce :
- The frequency of severe asthma attacks
- Asthma-related emergency room visits
- The use of oral steroid treatments
- Days lost from work, school, and daily activities due to asthma
BT isn’t the right choice for everyone. As with any procedure, there are risks, including a temporary increase and worsening of respiratory-related symptoms immediately after the procedure that could require hospitalization.
If you are over 18 and suffer from moderate to severe asthma, make an appointment with your SSM Health physician to discuss whether bronchial thermoplasty could help you control asthma symptoms and improve your quality of life.