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Bronchial Thermoplasty can Reduce Severe Asthma Attacks


A patient with severe asthma can be hospitalized up to 20 times a year.

In the past, the only treatment available was inhaled medication or oral steroids. But a new therapy approved in 2010, bronchial thermoplasty, can reduce hospitalization to 3 or 4 times a year.

The minimally invasive procedure uses radioablation to warm the inside of the airways.

“It’s similar to what was already used with arrhythmia and cancers,” said Diana Doeing, M.D., of Midwest Respiratory, pulmonologist on staff at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. “It’s adopting a familiar technique and applying it to airway diseases.” Doeing is one of two doctors who began administering the therapy there six months ago.

Asthma patients have more muscle in their airway, causing it to be thick, decreasing the size of the opening, causing asthma symptoms when it constricts, said Doeing. Warming the muscle reduces it, giving it less ability to constrict and contract.

“The strongest medication we can give is a steroid by mouth or IV, but it affects all the organs,” Doeing explained, contributing to diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. The benefits of bronchial thermoplasty speak for themselves: fewer emergency room visits, less missed work and school days, less exposure to steroids, less expense and improved quality of life.

Bronchial thermoplasty is for adults over 18, Doeing said. The therapy requires three separate outpatient procedures three weeks apart, taking 45 minutes each.

At least five years of safety data from the original bronchial thermoplasty trials shows no reduction in lung function and no side effects, Doeing said.

“Your quality of life improves,” she said. “Asthma affects over 25 million people in the United States. It’s a huge burden on the health care systems, but more insurance companies are accepting bronchial thermoplasty into their standard procedures.”

Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center, 333 North Madison St., Joliet, IL, 815-725-7133,

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