Health Team

New asthma treatment offers relief

Bronchial thermoplasty involves a tiny catheter placed down the breathing tube to melt away the smooth muscle that can tighten during an asthma attack.

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Tony Cook runs up to 7 miles a day, but until recently, his severe asthma made it too painful for him to work out for very long.

“It feels like a coil is just tightening around your lungs and you can't get any relief whatsoever,” he said.

In May, Cook underwent bronchial thermoplasty, a new treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It involves a tiny catheter placed down his breathing tube to melt away the smooth muscle that can tighten during an asthma attack.

The treatment increases airflow so that patients have better response to inhalers and oral medications.

“We're not curing asthma with this therapy. These patients will still have a diagnosis of asthma. What we're hoping to do is bring them down a notch,” said Dr. David Duhamel, director of Pulmonary Procedures at Virginia Hospital Center.

Bronchial thermoplasty isn’t for people with mild or moderate asthma. It is for people whose attacks are so severe that they make regular visits to the emergency room and need to use rescue inhalers constantly.

The procedure takes three outpatient treatments that last about a half-hour each.

“Right after the procedure, I felt that coil loosen. To me, it was amazing,” Cook said.

Cook felt better immediately, but, typically, the patient 's asthma gets worse the first few days after treatment then improves.

“I'm not coughing I'm not wheezing. It's just the quality of life that I've always dreamed of having,” Cook said.

Because the treatment is so new, Cook’s procedure wasn’t covered by his insurance. Patients should check with their own insurance carriers to see if it is covered.

The FDA is requiring Asthmatx – the company behind bronchial thermoplasty – to conduct a five-year study to determine the long-term effects of the treatment.



Allen Mask, M.D., Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Producer
Kathy Hanrahan, Web Editor

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