The number of people with asthma continues to grow. Nationwide, 26 million people suffer from the condition. In addition, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the condition leads to 456,000 hospitalizations and nearly 2 million visits to the emergency department each year.
Asthma sufferers also report nearly 14 million visits to doctors’ offices.
For many patients, the condition is lifelong, but a new treatment offered at a handful of sites in San Diego may help the most severe sufferers.
While the new treatment won’t eliminate the need for traditional asthma medication, such as inhalers, it aims to reduce the number of asthma attacks, ER visits and lost days from school or work.
The new treatment, called bronchial thermoplasty, is a minimally invasive outpatient treatment that’s aimed at offering long-lasting relief to those suffering from the most severe forms of asthma, which is roughly 5 to 10 percent of the condition’s population.
Dr. Kaveh Bagheri, a pulmonary disease specialist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, which recently began offering the treatment, said traditionally asthmatics use inhalers to open airways that narrow. But treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Some patients are given a combination of medications such as steroids that reduce inflammation or injections aimed at decreasing the number of asthma attacks.
For severe sufferers, traditional treatments such as inhalers will still be needed, but the new bronchial thermoplasty method uses heat to directly treat the lungs.
When patients receive the treatment, they’re sedated as a bronchoscope, a long, flexible tube with a camera on one end, is inserted through the nose or mouth to allow a doctor to ease a catheter into the patient’s airway. Once it’s in place, the catheter tip is heated to 149 degrees. The heat gets rid of excess smooth muscle from airways, which widens air passages and reduces the chances of an asthma attack.
Patients come in for three sessions, each spaced three weeks apart. Each appointment focuses on a different area of the lungs. Dr. Bagheri said during the first session, heat is delivered to the right lower lobe. The second session focuses on the left lower lobe with the final visit delivering heat to the left and right upper lobes. All sessions are done on an outpatient basis, and each lasts less than an hour.
(Click here to read the full article, written by Erin Hutkinn, SD Union Tribune)