STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - Most people with asthma can keep their symptoms under control with medication, but some still have serious trouble breathing. That was the case for a local man until he tried a new treatment.
Mark Wilson was on three medications including steroids, but every day activities were becoming a struggle because he couldn't breathe.
"Shoveling snow was an issue, doing lawn work was becoming an issue. Just walking around the block which is something we were doing. I couldn't compete that either," he says.
Nearly 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma, more than 400,000 end up in the hospital each year, and more than 3000 die.
At Mt. Nittany Medical Center in State College, Dr. John Cox says, "we think most of those fatalities result from inadequate tratment or misunderstandings or lack of education, but we do think all of those are preventalbe."
The pulmonologist now offers a new treatment for people like Mark whose asthma doesn't respond to conventional therapy.
Dr. Cox says it's believed that in asthma, the muscle surrounding the airway thickens, so it doesn't relax and allow the airways to open.
In bronchial thermoplasty the doctor applies thermal energy to the airway wall. He explains, "bronchial therapy, by apploying a gentle amount of heat, actually just thins that muscle out and restores it back toward normal, without burning the airways or damaging them in any way."
Patients undergo three treatments a month apart. Mark says, "by the second treatment, I definitely noticed improvement. It felt like I was getting air all the way down, whereas before I would always stop right here and by the 3rd treatment it was like, woo hoo, big change!"
And Dr. Cox remembers, "after we treated him, his treatment was nothing short of dramatic."
Dr Cox says bronchial thermoplasty has been tested extensively in people over 18 and is appropriate for younger adults, as as well as older ones.
Mark says after his procedure, he only takes one medication, at a pediatric dose and rarely uses his inhaler.