Bronchial thermoplasty is a procedure wherein a bronchoscope is passed through the nose or the mouth to the lungs for delivering thermal energy to the airways. The objective is to use heat to reduce the smooth muscles surrounding the airways. This write-up provides more information about this procedure.
Bronchial asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects one’s airways and causes the affected person to experience a variety of symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness of chest. While mild asthma might be manageable, in severe cases, it could give rise to a life-threatening situation. During an asthma attack, the airways get inflamed and constricted, thereby giving rise to severe breathing problems due to insufficient supply of oxygen to the lungs. Though the use of inhalers or bronchodilators helps provide relief, studies have been going on for developing an effective treatment option for chronic bronchial asthma. Bronchial thermoplasty is one such treatment that is currently being suggested for patients who haven’t benefited from drug therapy.
Generally, asthma treatment involves the use of inhalers that deliver small doses of corticosteroids for reducing inflammation in the airways. If the use of inhaled steroids or other asthma medications doesn’t seem to help, doctors might recommend this procedure. This is a minimally-invasive procedure that is performed under mild anesthesia. It is performed in three outpatient procedure visits. A device called bronchoscope is passed through the nose and throat. Once the bronchoscope passes through the airway passages and is properly positioned in the lungs, a catheter is inserted. The catheter’s tip is inflated so that it comes in contact with the sides of the airway wall.
The catheter acts as the vehicle for the delivery of the ablating agent, which in this case is the radio frequency energy. The smooth muscle walls of the airways are then heated to a temperature of 149 degrees Fahrenheit. This aim of this procedure is to minimize the contraction of the airway smooth muscle. It is the constriction and contraction of this muscle that causes the airways to close. As a result, the lungs don’t receive sufficient amount of air, which in turn gives rise to breathing problems. Thinning down the smooth muscles of the airways limits the ability of the airways to constrict, which helps provide relief.
Benefits and Side Effects
Since this bronchoscopic procedure is a relatively newer treatment, clinical studies are still going on to determine the effectiveness of this non-drug procedure for asthma control. Though this treatment does help in reducing the intensity of an asthma attack, it is not a complete cure. The affected individual would still experience the symptoms, if asthma triggers are around. However, this procedure does seem to bring about a considerable change in the intensity of asthma attacks. Some studies indicate that patients who had undergone this procedure paid fewer visits to the emergency room. Though the studies have revealed that this treatment considerably reduced the severity of the symptoms and did improve the quality of life of the patients, the long-term effects of this treatment are yet to be found out.
The ideal candidates for this treatment are people affected by severe asthma. It is recommended, only if drug therapy has been found to be ineffective. This treatment is not meant for those who haven’t completed 18 years of age. As is the case with any medical procedure, this bronchoscopic procedure can also cause certain side effects. For instance, delivering radiofrequency can result in certain side effects. It might irritate the airways or cause a lung infection. Some people might experience side effects on account of the administration of anesthesia. While life-threatening side effects have not been observed, long-term side effects are still not known. People affected by chronic bronchial asthma can consult a pulmonologist to find out more about this procedure. Each treatment will cost you around USD 1,500. Since most people require a minimum of three sessions, one might end up paying anywhere between USD 4,500 to USD 5,000.
Though bronchial thermoplasty has given hopes to those affected by severe bronchial asthma, the long-term effects of this procedure will be known only after elaborate studies are conducted. However, some of the clinical studies have revealed that it has improved the quality of life of those diagnosed with chronic asthma.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.