Northwestern Medicine

New Procedure Helps Patients with Severe Asthma Breathe Easier

Northwestern Memorial Hospital February 27, 2014

Bronchial Thermoplasty is the first non-drug, FDA approved therapy for severe asthma
CHICAGO, IL – Like millions of people, Jeannine Childs suffers from asthma. But unlike most, her asthma was debilitating. For years she struggled with wheezing, shortness of breath and fits of coughing so severe that they often landed her in the hospital. Nothing was really working – not lifestyle changes, not medications.
“It was awful, I’d have these episodes and I’d have to go to the hospital sometimes twice a month,” said Childs, a 75 year old who lives in Chicago. “I tried a lot of medications but nothing was working so finally I asked my pulmonologist if there was anything else I could try.”
That’s when she heard about a new procedure being offered by Northwestern Medicine called bronchial thermoplasty (BT). It’s first non-drug therapy approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for patients with severe asthma.
BT is a simple, minimally-invasive procedure. It’s performed in three different parts, and each time a different section of the lung is treated. BT is designed to be an outpatient procedure. During heat energy is delivered to the airway of the lungs; reducing the excessive muscle, which decreases the ability of the airway to narrow. This helps reduce the amount of asthma attacks.
“This procedure is for patients who, despite receiving high levels of asthma medications, continue to suffer from asthma attacks,” said Colin Gillespie, MD,, pulmonologist and director of interventional pulmonology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “BT offers these patients a way to control their disease."
Nearly 24 million people in the United States suffer from asthma. For most of them, avoiding allergens and taking medications help keep their asthma under control. But for people like Childs, who suffer with severe persistent asthma, frequent hospital visits tend to be the norm and taking medications and lifestyle changes don’t do the trick.
“Asthma affects many people in this country, and often is undertreated by physicians,” says Ravi Kalhan, MD, pulmonologist and director of the asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) program at Northwestern Memorial. “The bronchial thermoplasty procedure offers our patients with severe refractory asthma an option that may improve their quality of life. This is an important addition to the available therapies for this common condition.”
 In a clinical study, adults with severe asthma that were treated with BT had improved quality of life.
  • 84 percent reduction in emergency room visits for symptoms of asthma
  • 73 percent reduction in hospital visits for symptoms of asthma
  • 66 percent reduction in lost days from work, school, or other activities due to asthma
  • 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks
 Childs said she has seen an incredible improvement since getting the three bronchial thermoplasty treatments in August.
“If anyone suffers from asthma like I did, they know it’s horrible,” Childs said. “It affects your breathing – something you do every minute of every day. I feel like I have my life back.”
Learn more about pulmonology and critical care at Northwestern Memorial. To make an appointment with a physician, please call 312.926.0779.

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