HOUSTON (May 08, 2014)

Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital now offers bronchial thermoplasty, a novel treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for asthma. Asthma patients who received bronchial thermoplasty during clinical trials demonstrated significant improvement in their asthma symptoms as well as a reduction in the number of severe asthma flare-ups and emergency department visits.

“There is a muscle layer which actually gets bigger in people with asthma and when the muscles get bigger, they contract more vigorously. Bronchial thermoplasty basically de-bulks those muscles,” said Victor Salcedo, MD, a pulmonologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest. “This innovative treatment may provide better day-to-day breathing and a higher quality of life for people who suffer with severe asthma.”

With the patient under light sedation, the interventional pulmonologist guides a long, flexible tube through the patient's mouth as far as possible down each airway. An attached camera and light allows the physician to view the airway on a video screen. The thermoplasty device travels inside the tube and has an array of electrodes on its tip that extends and expands to make contact with the airway walls. The electrodes are then heated with radiofrequency energy, shrinking the muscle and creating a larger opening or airway.

Each activation of the device treats less than an inch of airway. The pulmonologist moves the device and activates it repeatedly along the dozens of bronchial branches. Bronchial thermoplasty is done in three separate treatments, each focusing on different sections of the lungs.

“Our patients have greatly benefited from this procedure; fewer severe asthma attacks, reduced ER visits and hospitalization for respiratory symptoms, and less days lost from work, school, and other daily activities due to asthma,” said Dr. Salcedo.

In a study funded by Boston Scientific, bronchial thermoplasty was shown to reduce severe asthma attacks and improve asthma control; however, it does not cure asthma or replace current asthma medications. Patients still need to see an asthma physician to manage the condition.

Asthma is one of the most common and costly diseases in the world. The prevalence of asthma has grown in recent decades, and there is no cure. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 20 million Americans have asthma, and managing asthma consumes over $18 billion of health care resources each year. In the U.S. each year, asthma attacks result in approximately 10 million outpatient visits, 2 million emergency rooms visits, 500,000 hospitalizations, and 4,000 deaths.