A breakthrough in the asthma treatment process being used to treat patients in Southern California may prevent attacks and cut down hospitalizations.
The treatment is called Bronchial Thermoplasty, in which the smooth tissues around the airways are heated.
“It helps reduce the amount of muscle tissue surrounding the bronchial walls,” said Dr. Avi Ishaaya, an asthma specialist in Los Angeles.
First, anesthesia is administered, and then a doctor inserts a flexible tube through the mouth or nose, guiding it to the lungs. The tip of the tube uses radio waves to heat the smooth muscle.
It can take up to three treatments to heat up enough of the muscle to make a difference. But once completed, these benefits may last at least five years. More research is needed to determine for how long the effects will last.
As with any procedure, patients should speak with their doctor as there are risks and individual results can vary. But the risks in a Bronchial Thermoplasty may be minimal.
“There’s no destruction that occurs to the tissue at all,” Ishaaya said.
Although this procedure does not replace other treatments, it can reduce the need for them.
There has been “over 30 percent reductions in asthma exacerbations and about an 80 percent or so reduction in visits to the emergency rooms,” Ishaaya said.
The treatment is covered by some insurance companies, but for those paying out of pocket it can cost about $15,000. Overall, it may be costing patients less than conventional asthma medications and doctor visits.