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New Procedure Heating Up Asthma Treatment: May 5, 2014

With every breath comes fear for many adult asthmatics. Fear of their airways closing while they’re powerless to stop it. Now there is a new alternative for people with hard to manage symptoms.

 “There’s a new technology in the treatment of asthma that’s called bronchial thermoplasty,” says Dr. Sagar Naik, who is a pulmonologist with Lee Memorial Health System. “We use this technology on folks who have severe asthma and whose symptoms have not been controlled with usual medical therapy.”

Bronchial thermoplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure. It targets muscles in the airways that swell and constrict during an asthma attack by applying heat doctors are able to shrink the muscles.

“So the idea is - can we do something to weaken these muscles so that they don’t close down the airways so tight? What we do in bronchial thermoplasty is take a thin, flexible, fiber optic tube with a camera at its tip, from the nose down into the lungs. We take it to each individual breathing tube and at a very, very, low frequency we emit heat energy that allows that muscle around the breathing tubes to shrink,” Dr. Sagar Naik says.

Bronchial thermoplasty is the first non-drug therapy approved by the FDA to treat severe asthma. Patients who qualify undergo multiple treatments. While it is not, most find it can limit if not eliminate attacks.

“Getting back from a point where you’re always scared when the next asthma attack is going to be when you can’t even get a good night’s sleep because you have to wake up two or three times to use your rescue inhaler. Going from that to being well controlled is a huge improvement,” Dr. Sagar Naik says.

The procedure is only approved for adults and is now available locally.

 “It's a brand new technology, it's a technology that lee memorial has invested in and we plan to use to treat our asthma patients,” says. Dr. Sagar Naik. 

It’s hoped by turning up the heat, patients can dial down their dependence on medications.