Asthma Treatment Option: Bronchial Thermoplasty

ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA) — Tony Cook of Alexandria, Virginia, recalls the wheezing, hoarseness and sleeping woes along with many prescribed and failed medications and treatments he’s had since he was diagnosed with asthma as a child.

Tony explains that, at one point, he thought no medication would ever be enough to provide him with lasting relief.

He says, “I had a bucket of medications that I tried counting, but there were just too many.”

Tony says asthma impacted every part of his life.

“I couldn’t exercise as much or do things that other people were doing.”

Tony has now become the first patient after the FDA’s approval to undergo Bronchial Thermoplasty, which uses heat to help patients breathe.

Dr. David Duhamel, Director of Pulmonary Procedures at Virginia Hospital Center explains that Bronchial Thermoplasty “melts away” tissue in the airways that can constrict and spasm during an asthma attack.

“We don’t have any therapies that can deal with the smooth muscle. However, by doing BT, we ablate the smooth muscle using gentle heat and take it out of the equation,” explains Dr. Duhamel.

A tiny catheter is inserted into a bronchial scope. This allows doctors to unblock each of the smaller tubes in the lungs.

By increasing airflow, severe asthma patients can respond better to inhalers and oral medications.

“It will not cure their asthma. It will make a significant improvement in the quality of their life, their need for medications and the frequency and severity of their exacerbations,” says Dr. Duhamel.

Although Tony will still rely on medication, Dr. Duhamel hopes, “…by undergoing Bronchial Thermoplasty he will be able to lessen the severity of his exacerbations, his asthma attacks.”

Tony says he hopes the technique means his frequent missed days of work and trips to the emergency room are behind him.

“Even a very limited reduction in my symptoms would be helpful,” says Tony.

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