Doctors at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) are delivering heat directly to the source to treat patients with severe asthma - a respiratory disease that causes the airways in the lungs to narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Bronchial thermoplasty, an innovative technique that uses radiofrequency, helps patients breathe easier by lessening the severity of asthma attacks and preventing future attacks. ORMC is the first hospital in Central Florida, and currently the only, offering the option for the more than one million across the country struggling with the chronic condition characterized by persistent shortness of breath, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and asthma-related deaths.
Bronchial thermoplasty with the Alair® System, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, treats severe asthma by going to the source. The lungs consist of multiple airway passages that are surrounded by airway smooth muscle. For people with asthma, this airway smooth muscle is more susceptible to triggers and irritants that can cause it to constrict and reduce the amount of air that flows through the lungs.
"Bronchial thermoplasty remodels the airway smooth muscle," said Mark Vollenweider, MD, MPH, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at ORMC. "Using a small catheter we deliver controlled energy to the airways of the lung to reduce the amount of excessive airway smooth muscle. The reduction decreases the muscle's ability to constrict the airways, resulting in a decreased occurrence of asthma attacks. It is the constricting or tightening of the muscles that causes breathing problems when someone is having an asthma attack."
The cycle of treatment, includes three procedures occurring three weeks apart.
"This is a game changer for patients with severe asthma," said Dr. Vollenweider. "This is the first type of asthma treatment I have seen that changes someone's life in such a remarkable way with almost no complications and with low long-term risk."
Patient outcomes have been positive and lives restored, sometimes soon after the first procedure within the treatment cycle.
"Many patients are able to discontinue breathing medications and some are able to stop using steroids," said Dr. Vollenweider. "This is significant improvement to their health because medications to treat severe asthma often lead to diabetes, osteoporosis, and other medical conditions."
Research shows the life changing results maybe lasting.