Bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look at your airway through a thin viewing instrument called a bronchoscope. During a bronchoscopy, your doctor will examine your throat, larynx, trachea and lower airways.
A new treatment option for severe asthma sufferers is now available at Benefis Hospitals. Bronchial thermoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that uses thermal energy to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, making it easier for patients to breathe and improve their quality of life.
How does bronchial thermoplasty treat asthma?
Asthma is chronic inflammation of the airways with episodic narrowing (a.k.a. bronchoconstriction). Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness, which often come on suddenly in the form of an asthma attack. Persistent inflammation can eventually cause the airway smooth muscle to thicken, which restricts air flow and makes breathing difficult. Bronchial thermoplasty is the first asthma treatment aimed at reducing the muscle thickness and mass, making room for easier airflow.
How does the procedure work?
Bronchial thermoplasty is performed by a lung specialist, called a pulmonologist. Full treatment involves three separate outpatient procedures, each scheduled three weeks apart. The first procedure treats the airways of the right lower lobe of the lungs; the second treats the airways of the left lower lobe; and the third procedure treats the airways in both upper lobes.
Doctors use a bronchoscope to work inside a patient’s lungs. This long, flexible tube has a camera on one end so that doctors can see inside the lungs. The scope is inserted through the mouth or nose; no incisions are required. Patients are under sedation throughout the procedure and should not feel any discomfort other than occasional coughing. The specialist may also decide to do the procedure under general anesthesia, in which case, the patient will be asleep during the entire procedure.
A catheter is inserted through a channel in the bronchoscope, and precisely controlled thermal energy is delivered through the catheter into the airways. This “heats up” the airway smooth muscle to around 140 degree Fahrenheit, which is enough to destroy the smooth muscle and thus take away the ability of the airways to narrow.
After the procedure, patients are monitored closely and often go home a few hours after the procedure.
What are the benefits?
- 32% reduction in asthma attacks
- 84% reduction in emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms
- 66% reduction in days lost from work, school, or other daily activities due to asthma symptoms
- 73% reduction in hospitalizations for respiratory symptoms
These benefits were observed for patients who underwent bronchial thermoplasty treatment. During the clinical studies patients continued to take their standard maintenance asthma medications which included combinations of inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting bronchodilators.
Is bronchial thermoplasty right for me?
Patients who benefit from bronchial thermoplasty are typically:
- adults between ages 18–65
- non-smokers for at least a year prior to the procedure
- severe or persistent asthma sufferers whose condition is not well-controlled by inhaled corticosteroids or long-acting bronchodilator medications.
To learn more about how bronchial thermoplasty can help you breathe freely again, contact Benefis Hospitals at 406-455-5242.