New non-drug treatment for asthma

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The first FDA-approved, non-drug treatment offered at Temple Univ. Hospital

Asthma has always been part of Cris Pulliam's life, making some activities impossible.

"I can't do the things I want to do, exercise, running, playing," said Cris.

Even with medication, symptoms aren't always controlled, and she doesn't always know what might spark an attack.

"If it was too outside, if it rained, animals, pets, you name it," she said.

After a severe attack landed her in the hospital for 10 days, she was desperate. So, her doctor recommended a new treatment being offered at Temple University Hospital- a procedure called bronchial thermoplasty."'

Doctor Kartik Shenoy of Temple's Lung Center showed Action News a model of how it works.

A flexible tube is passed to the source of an asthma attack, the bronchial tubes. Then radiofrequency energy is applied. It shrinks the tissue making the airway bigger and less likely to constrict.

"It's pretty easy to think about, is it easier to breathe through this or is it easier to breathe through something a lot bigger?" says Dr. Shenoy.

The airways are treated in three sessions lasting about an hour long each, and the sessions are scheduled about three weeks apart.

Dr. Shenoy says for a few days after each treatment, asthma symptoms may get worse, but that resolves, and over the long-term it has shown positive results.

"The procedure has been shown to improve quality of life, reduce asthma attacks and keep people out of the hospital," Dr. Shenoy said.

Cris has had two sessions, and so far she is noticing a difference.

"I could walk further without getting short of breath, be around animals and not get short of breath. I can run a little," said Cris. "My goal is to do Zumba!"

The procedure is not a "cure" for asthma, but it can help. However, it is only approved for people with severe asthma.

And even though it was approved by the government in 2010, it is not covered by all health insurance plans. It costs about $14,000 to $18,000. But Temple and other hospitals are working on ways to get insurance plans to help cover costs.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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