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New asthma treatment, bronchial thermoplasty, helps patients breathe easier

August 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Asthma sufferers are accustomed to using inhalers and medicine to breathe easier, but now there's a new procedure that could help treat the disease.

For 73-year-old Betzable Alday, breathing used to be painful. Severe asthma attacks sent her to the emergency room regularly.

"Those crises have been so frequent, and I have been taking medication for so long," said Alday.

Nothing worked until now. Alday underwent a new outpatient procedure called bronchial thermoplasty at St. Mary Medical Center.

"We pass it through the nose, and the patient is moderately sedated," said Dr. Jyoti Datta with St. Mary Medical Center.

Datta explains how he heats up the inside of Alday's airways with a catheter. The radio frequency device reduces inflammation and eliminates the excess smooth muscles that contract and narrow during an asthma attack.

"It helps them stay at home, not get many strong medications for asthma and avoid coming to the emergency room multiple times," said Datta.

Bronchial thermoplasty runs about $18,000 to $20,000, and insurance covers it on a case by case basis. Some patients may experience some side effects.

"Sometimes they can get more coughing and a little chest pain also," said Datta.

Alday isn't experiencing any of those side effects. Patients go home the same day. She'll undergo the procedure three times to treat the different parts of her lungs. The difference will be more noticeable once it's all completed, but even after her first time, she feels better than she has in a long time.

Studies show bronchial thermoplasty helps 80 percent of patients reduce their frequency of asthma attacks and their reliance on medications.


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