Melting asthma away

Doctors in Manchester and Glasgow have begun treating asthma patients with a pioneering treatment described as having the effect of “melting away” muscle in the airways.

Instead of using drugs such as steroids, a wire probe is inserted into the lungs which then heats the surrounding tissue to temperature of 65 degrees Celsius by emitting ten second bursts of radio waves.

The procedure, called bronchial thermoplasty, destroys some of the muscle tissue which constricts during an asthma attack, making breathing difficult.

After treatment, asthma symptoms can actually worsen as the heat also causes damage to the sensitive lung lining. But once this is repaired doctors say asthmatics can be helped for up to five years.

However cost is a potential problem as it costs around £10,000 per patient, although savings could be made in the longer term through fewer hospital admissions and reductions in the costs of medicines.

According to the campaign group Asthma UK, 5.4 million people in the UK have asthma and around 250,000 of these have severe asthma.

The group’s Chief Medical Adviser, Professor Ian Pavord, said of bronchial thermoplasty: “In some people with severe asthma, the symptoms of their asthma have been improved and the risk of them having an asthma attack has been reduced, so it is encouraging to see that the technique has now been carried out outside of clinical trials.”

Source: BBC News

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