Patients with severe asthma can be treated with an outpatient procedure called bronchial thermoplasty. It works by providing controlled thermal energy to the airway tissues through a special catheter. The procedure causes controlled, acute destruction of the lining, blood vessels, smooth muscles, and nerve fibres of the airway. However, all tissues except the smooth muscles will regenerate later. Therefore, it reduces the excessive smooth muscles in the asthmatic airways and the ability of them to constrict during asthma attacks.
This procedure is suitable for patients, who are 18 years and above, with prolonged severe asthma is not managed with inhaled long-acting β-agonists and corticosteroids. A complete course of treatment consists of three bronchial thermoplasty procedures once in three weeks. Each treatment session targets different lobe (area) of the lungs. This procedure will be performed under sedation or mild anaesthesia, inserting a catheter within a bronchoscope (a thin, flexible, tube-like device) through the nose or mouth, and into the lungs. The bronchial thermoplasty catheter offers a number of ten second bursts of thermal energy, which heat the airways of the particular lobe up to 65°C.
Benefits of bronchial thermoplasty
- It improves the quality of life.
- It reduces asthma attacks by 32 %.
- It lowers hospitalisation due to asthma by 73 %.
- It reduces asthma emergencies by 84 %.
- It lowers the days lost from daily activities by 66 %.
A full course of treatment maintains these benefits for at least two years. However, some patients may experience a transient asthma attack immediately following the procedure.
(Photo courtesy: Nic McPhee)