Bronchial Thermoplasty: Helping to manage severe asthma

A procedure to help you manage severe asthma

If you suffer from severe asthma, you may find relief in a procedure called bronchial thermoplasty, available at our Endoscopy Department. The procedure can reduce asthma attacks, hospitalizations and visits to the Emergency Department. Bronchial thermoplasty can help you control your asthma and improve your quality of life.

Bronchial thermoplasty is the first non-drug therapy that the Food and Drug Administration has approved for severe asthma. Pulmonologist H. Erhan Dincer performed the first bronchial thermoplasty in Minnesota (not under a research protocol) at University of Minnesota Medical Center.

What is bronchial thermoplasty?
Bronchial thermoplasty does not replace other asthma treatments such as inhalers, but you may be able to use these medications less often after the procedure. Bronchial thermoplasty is a short, painless procedure that removes extra smooth muscles from inside your airways. These are the muscles that constrict during asthma attacks and make it hard for you to breath.

What happens during the procedure?
The procedure is minimally invasive, which means no large incisions are needed. The physician will put a bronchoscope into your mouth and move it to your lungs. The physician will use the Alair® Bronchial Thermoplasty System to heat the bronchial tree’s smooth muscle, treating all accessible airways 5 millimeters at a time. You will be moderately sedated during the procedure, which takes about an hour.

Bronchial thermoplasty consists of three procedures, each three weeks apart . The physician treats different parts of the lungs during each visit: the right lower lobe, the left lower lobe and finally both upper lobes. You may be able to go home the same day as the procedure, or your doctor may ask you to stay at the hospital overnight.

Who are ideal patients?
If you are an adult with severe asthma that isn’t controlled well with inhaled corticosteroids or long-acting beta-agonists, you may benefit from bronchial thermoplasty. You will need to continue managing your asthma, but most patients have fewer symptoms after recovering from the procedure.

What are the benefits?
Patients with severe asthma who have had bronchial thermoplasty have:
  • Fewer asthma attacks
  • Fewer emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms
  • Fewer hospitalizations for respiratory symptoms
  • Fewer days lost from work, school or other activities
  • Improved asthma quality of life
  • Stable outcomes at least five years afterwards

What are the risks?
People sometimes have more asthma-related respiratory symptoms right after the procedure. Symptoms usually go away in a week.

Video provided courtesy of Boston Scientific Corporation