Surgery for Asthma

Researchers at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada are in the process of testing a radical new approach to treat moderate to severe asthma. The researchers are testing the effects of a surgical technique called bronchial thermoplasty to help patients get their asthma under control.

Medication has always been the mainstay of asthma control. Most people with asthma control their symptoms by taking a number of medications on a daily basis. However for some, even this level of medication can be insufficient.

That is where bronchial thermoplasty comes in. This procedure affects the smooth muscle of the bronchial tubes. It has been used in the past to treat emphysema patients. Bronchial thermoplasty is now being performed on an investigative basis with patients who have moderate to severe asthma.

One of the problems with asthma is that smooth muscle in the bronchial tubes contract, making the airways smaller. As a result the patient ends up with shortness of breath. According to one physician involved in the research project, bronchial thermoplasty works to reduce the amount of airway smooth muscle, thereby altering the ability of the muscle to constrict the airway.
The procedure is performed under either general or local aesthetic. A device is passed through a standard bronchoscope and positioned in small to medium sized airways. It usually takes three treatments to fully alleviate both lungs.

So far, the procedure has shown very promising results and patients report good outcomes. Bronchial thermoplasty is also considered easy to undergo. One patient in the study has been able to reduce her medication dosage from several times a day - to only a few times a week.

Researchers are careful to point out that bronchial thermoplasty is not a cure for asthma. However, it may reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms.

St. Joseph's Healthcare has conducted several studies of bronchial thermoplasty, involving 11 international sites. The results of this recent study could be reported as early as fall 2005.

May 2005
Hospital News

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