Severe Asthma, Meet Bronchial Thermoplasty

Asthma, a chronic disease, affects over 23 million Americans and causes over 444,000 hospitalizations and 3,447 deaths per year.  But now, bronchial thermoplasty is being developed as an exciting new non-drug therapy for severe asthma.

Bronchial thermoplasty is a recently-approved outpatient procedure that consists of a single-use catheter and RF controller delivered with a bronchoscope.  The treatment uses RF energy to reduce the airway’s smooth muscle tissue from the lining, thus, decreasing the ability of the airway’s smooth muscles to constrict.

I spoke with Dr. Alan Leff, MD, an authority on asthma treatments, and he explained, “Generally, treatment options for severe asthma are not too good. Although there are currently more convenient pharmaceuticals available for less severe cases, there’s not much in the pharmaceutical pipeline for severe asthma.  However, once a patient has very bad asthma, they will always have very bad asthma and it will always be difficult to control.”

In clinical trials, bronchial thermoplasty was the most effective treatment for patients with severe asthma.  These patients experienced less-severe asthma events, 84% fewer emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms, and 73% less hospitalizations for respiratory symptoms.  With this new treatment, hospitals will be able to treat patients using a billable outpatient procedure instead of treating them in the ER, bringing more value to the hospital.

In an interview with Dr. John Miller, head of Thoracic Surgery at St. Joseph’s Healthcare and associate professor of Surgery at McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, he commented on a patient’s ongoing costs, stating, “The patient eventually becomes less dependent on drug therapy after thermoplasty; we saw a 50% reduction in the need for rescue medications.  Furthermore, the number of exacerbations that required an escalation in treatments and medications also occurred about half as often.”  These are results that everyone can be excited about.

James Laskaris, EE, BME
James Laskaris, EE, BME, Clinical Analyst — Mr. James Laskaris is a senior emerging technology analyst at MD Buyline and has been with the company since 1994. With over 30 years of experience in the healthcare field, Mr. Laskaris is the primary analyst of high-end OR technology. He also covers issues related to the legislative and reimbursement effect on healthcare and authors a bimonthly “Issues that Matter” publication. Mr. Laskaris received his biomedical engineering degree from Southern Illinois University. His work has been published in hfm Magazine, Radiology Manager and Healthcare Purchasing News.