I was reading a story in the newspaper last week, about a newer way to treat severe asthma. The patient in the story was waking up almost EVERY night for the past 42 years with an asthma attack. He has had asthma attacks so bad that on two occasions they have had to call the helicopter to fly him to the hospital. He's also been on a ventilator twice.
So how can doctors treat someone like him? Bronchial thermoplasty is an option. It's a technical sounding name but easy concept to understand. They put a small bronchoscope through the nose into the lungs. The bronchoscope zaps the smooth muscles in the airways. The heat softens the muscle and reduces the spasms that cause asthma attacks.
The article said that 80% of those treated with the heat have had a better quality of life. It has meant having to miss fewer days of work or school because of asthma attacks. It also meant fewer trips to the emergency room and fewer hospitalizations.
This patient had to a series of 3 bronchial thermoplasty treatments done in the hospital under local anesthesia. Each time, he was well enough to go home an hour later. It has made a dramatic in his life, before he would wake up and need his asthma medication. Now he can sleep through the night. Medicare will cover bronchial thermoplasty, but his insurance wouldn't cover it, so he paid $20,000 out of his own pocket. But to have such a change of life was worth it to him.
Bronchial thermoplasty is approved by the FDA for those 18 years or older. They are conducting studies to see if it can be used for children too.