Bronchial thermoplasty is a treatment for severe asthma. It's a way to open your airways. The procedure uses gentle heat to shrink the smooth muscles in your lungs -- the ones that tighten during asthma attacks and make it hard to breathe.
You'll go to a hospital to get bronchial thermoplasty. It's given in three separate sessions with about 3 weeks between them. Each treatment lasts less than an hour, and a different part of your lungs gets treated each time.
Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. With asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. This results in asthma symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. If it is severe, asthma can result in decreased activity and inability to talk. Some people refer to asthma as "bronchial asthma."
Even though there are seemingly miraculous treatments...
Bronchial thermoplasty doesn't cure asthma. But it can make you feel and breathe better.
What Happens During a Treatment
First, your doctor will test your lungs by checking to see how much air you can blow out.
You'll take a steroid pill and, through a vein in your arm, you'll get medicine to make you sleepy. You may get other medicine to numb your mouth and throat.
Your doctor will put a small tube called a bronchoscope through your mouth, down your throat, and into your lung. A smaller tube goes inside the bronchoscope and warms each small airway in that part of your lung. The heat is very mild -- cooler than a cup of coffee. You won't feel it or the tube touching your lungs.
After the treatment, you'll rest for 3 or 4 hours. You'll also do another lung test. Depending on the results, you might spend the night in the hospital. Or you could go home the same day.
A nurse will call you 1, 2, and 7 days after each session to see how you're doing. Your doctor will check on your progress closely for 6 weeks after your last treatment.
Side Effects and Risks
It's common to feel sleepy right after your treatment. You may also cough or wheeze some, or be short of breath. These symptoms usually go away in a week. In rare cases, you may need hospital care for your symptoms.
Bronchial thermoplasty is very safe.
Who It Helps
This treatment is only for people with severe asthma. Your doctor may recommend it if you:
Have asthma attacks that aren't controlled by inhalers or asthma medicines called beta-agonists
Are 18 to 65 years old
Have not smoked for the past year
What Are the Benefits?
After bronchial thermoplasty, you'll still need an inhaler or other asthma medicines. But you may not use them as often.
You may also have:
Fewer asthma attacks
Fewer emergency room and hospital visits
Fewer days lost from work, school, and other activities