NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A promising new treatment for adults with severe asthma doesn’t include drugs or inhalers with a lot of side effects.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, it uses radio waves to heat up the airways in the lungs.
More than 25-million people have asthma in the U.S. and even though modern medications have improved asthma control tremendously, more than half of asthmatics have an attack each year and more than 3,000 die of their attack.
New technology can improve those terrible numbers.
Jenn McBride, 38, is a wife and busy mom of two teenagers, but 18 years of asthma was slowing her down, especially over the past 4 years.
“There were days where I couldn’t even get out of bed because I couldn’t walk across the hall, or walk up my stairs, or down the stairs. I’d have to take a break,” she said. “I was missing so much work. I was missing things with my kids.”
She ended up in cycles of bronchitis and pneumonia. Every day she was using inhalers, breathing treatments, cough medicines, and steroids — which had side effects.
“It actually has caused cataract in one of my eyes. It has made my bones weaker,” she said.
That’s what finally led Jenn to sign up for a procedure called bronchial thermoplasty.
Under sedation and local anesthesia, doctors thread a scope deep into the airways of the lung. Then they expand a basket-like device that emits radio waves to heat up the walls of the airways, partially destroying the smooth muscles that spasms during an asthma attack.
The process is repeated all along the airway.
“When you look at children, they were able to go to school, the days lost of work and school participation went down significantly. These patients were followed for five years without any ill effects, without any scarring, without any pulmonary fibrosis,” Dr. Antonios Zikos said.
It also means fewer asthma attacks, doctor visits, E.R. visits, hospital stays, and medication use.
“I have not touched the breathing treatment, I have not been on the steroids. I can go to work, I can come home and clean my house, and cook dinner for my kids, and keep going with my day. I don’t have to go to work and then be done for the day,” McBride said.
The best candidates for the procedure are asthmatics who aren’t controlled by medication or the meds are causing severe side effects.
The thermoplasty is done in three parts, three weeks apart, and is FDA approved, but not all insurance companies are covering it.