Bronchial Thermoplasty

Bronchial thermoplasty is a breakthrough procedure for treating severe cases of asthma. Only recently approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), it is producing positive results in the five to ten percent of asthmatic adults who fail to respond to more common therapies, such as bronchodilators and corticosteroids. Bronchial thermoplasty uses radiofrequency heat, delivered by means of a catheter, to decrease the thickness of bronchial walls that swell up during asthmatic episodes. Though it doesn’t cure the disease, bronchial thermoplasty has been shown to lessen flare-ups, reduce symptoms, and improve quality of life for individuals with particularly stubborn cases.

Respiratory care is a major focus at Baptist Health. Our physicians, therapists, and other providers stay up-to-date with the latest advances in treating pulmonary conditions and diseases. You’ll receive the best that medicine has to offer, always with a human touch.

Why Would I Receive Bronchial Thermoplasty?

One of asthma’s long-term effects is to gradually thicken airway smooth muscle, or ASM, in the bronchial passages. This reduces airflow through the lungs and makes breathing more difficult during physical exertion or an asthma attack. Bronchial thermoplasty reverses this development by using heat to shrink ASM, leaving it less susceptible to swelling. It becomes a treatment option for patients who are unresponsive to other types of therapy.

Good candidates for bronchial thermoplasty are:

  • Asthma sufferers between the ages of 18-65,
  • Non-smokers, and
  • Individuals for whom standard forms of treatment are ineffective. 

How Will Bronchial Thermoplasty Help My Condition?

Bronchial thermoplasty won’t eliminate asthma from your life, but it will lessen asthma’s impact. Using heat to shrink airway smooth muscle has been shown to:

  • Reduce the number and frequency of asthma attacks
  • Lessen the number of visits to medical facilities for urgent or emergency care
  • Decrease sick days taken from work or school
  • Moderate symptoms for several years following treatment.

What Should I Expect from Bronchial Thermoplasty?

Bronchial thermoplasty is an outpatient surgical procedure typically performed in three installments over a nine or ten week period. Different areas of the lungs are treated each time. The following steps are involved:

  • Spirometer reading: Your physician will take a baseline measurement of how much air you can blow out prior to undergoing the bronchial thermoplasty.
  • Anesthesia: You’ll receive an anesthetic to put you asleep during the procedure, as well as numbing agents to reduce irritation in your mouth and throat.
  • Bronchoscope insertion: Your physician will run a long, thin, flexible catheter called a bronchoscope down your throat and into your lungs. The tip will be activated by radio waves, to heat airway smooth muscle and reduce its thickness. You won’t be able to feel the heat either during or after the procedure.
  • Recovery: Following surgery, you’ll spend three or four hours in recovery. You may be able to go home that same day.
  • Follow-up and further procedures: You’ll have follow-up visits with your physician after returning home. Additional procedures will be scheduled, as needed.

What Are the Possible Side Effects?

Side effects from bronchial thermoplasty are minimal. They may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath.

Potential Complications

Bronchial thermoplasty involves the risk of certain complications. Some complications can be life-threatening.

Bronchial thermoplasty risks:

  • Respiratory infection
  • Pulmonary artery issues
  • Bleeding
  • Temporary asthma problems
  • Severe asthma
  • Coughing up blood
  • Collapsed lung
  • Long-term expansion of airways
  • Low forced air volume rate

What Is My Prognosis with Bronchial Thermoplasty?

Bronchial thermoplasty is a pathbreaking new approach to the treatment of severe asthma cases. A major clinical study from 2007 found evidence that asthma patients treated with bronchial thermoplasty experienced diminished symptoms, fewer emergency room visits, and less frequent attacks than a study group without the same level of care. Bronchial thermoplasty is hope for patients with chronic, unresponsive asthma.

When It Comes to Respiratory Health, We’re a Breath of Fresh Air

If you’re dealing with a respiratory ailment or condition, see your Baptist Health physician. He or she will be able to assess your condition and determine which medical treatments, if any, are most appropriate for you.

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