Life & Health: Bronchial Thermoplasty

By Sarah Swistak

Published 11/07 2013 01:36PM

Updated 11/07 2013 06:00PM

If you have severe, persistent asthma, long-term relief is just a doctor’s visit away.
Mount Nittany Medical Center is the only facility within a 63-mile radius to perform an advanced treatment called “Bronchial Thermoplasty”.
Dr. John Cox, a Pulmonologist with Mount Nittany Physician Group, talks about this procedure in this week’s Life & Health segment.
Bronchial Thermoplasty is meant for individuals with severe, persistent asthma.  Dr. Cox says you may have severe, persistent asthma if you have any of the following symptoms.
         ·  Symptoms throughout the day
         ·  Nighttime awakenings at least one time per week (and oftentimes     
            occurring every night)
         ·  The need to control symptoms with short-acting asthma medications    
            (through an inhaler or in liquid or tablet form)
         ·  Ongoing interference with normal activity
         ·  Lung function at less than 60 percent

People with asthma have more smooth-muscle tissue in their airways, making it more difficult for the air to move in and out of their lungs.  An asthma attack is when that excessive muscle tissue constricts, causing shortness of breath and wheezing.  Dr. Cox says, Broncial Thermoplasty works by “reducing the amount of excess muscle tissue in the airways through the application of mild heat.  The reduction of muscle tissue opens up the airways more, allowing people to breathe easier.”
The procedure needs to be performed by a pulmonologist who has been specially trained.  It is performed in three sessions, with a three-week waiting period between each session.  The pulmonologist inserts a fiberoptic bronchoscope through the mouth.  That bronchoscope is equipped with a specialized catheter, which applies mild heat to reduce muscle tissue.  The whole process lasts roughly an hour, and the patient is put under general anesthesia.  After the procedure, the patient is monitored for a period of up to four hours, and, finding no complications, is sent home.  The recovery time for the procedure is quick, and most patients are back to their normal routine the following day.
Dr. Cox says this is considered a once-in-a-lifetime procedure, so once a patient completes their three rounds of treatment, they will not have to undergo the procedure again.  He does want to make clear that this procedure “does not replace asthma medication.  Instead, it works with the medication to provide long-lasting protection against asthma symptoms.”

According to Dr. Cox, a recent clinical trial has found that 79% of patients treated with Bronchial Thermoplasty experienced significant improvement in their asthma-related quality of life.

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