In terms of treating asthma, there is a new
procedure called Bronchial Thermoplasty, which has been approved by the FDA for treating
patients with severe, persistent asthma. They’re patients who are
calling the office, they’re on and off prednisone,
they’re in the emergency rooms, they’re missing school, they’re missing work, they’re hospitalized;
those are the patients we can treat with this procedure called bronchial thermoplasty. The
procedure is actually three separate procedures. We treat the bottom of the right lung first.
About a month later, we treat the bottom of the left lung, and then a month later, the
top of the both lungs. It’s an outpatient procedure. We perform the procedure in the
bronchoscope suite. A patient would come in, they would have a hospital gown put on, and
an IV put in. We work with our anesthesiologists. They’re completely asleep for the procedure.
The procedure lasts for about forty-five minutes. The way the procedure works is that we deliver
short bursts of thermal energy to the airways. Physiologically, that thins out the smooth
muscle. When a patient breathes in an allergen, they’re less likely to be broncospastic,
because of the decrease in smooth muscle. The vast majority of patients can go home
after the procedure. There is concern that the procedure will cause an asthma flare.
To mitigate that or minimize that, we pretreat patients with prednisone. Eighty percent of
the patients have a significant improvement following treatment. There’s less hospitalizations.
There’s less trips to the emergency room. There’s less prednisone use. There’s less
asthma flares. We now have data that suggests that the effects last for at least five years.
I’ve had patients who feel better after the first treatment. Most people feel better after
the first or second production–so one to two months after the treatment. The biggest
problem with bronchial thermoplasty is getting insurance pre-approval. Its a relatively new
procedure. In order to combat that, at Pulmonary Associates, we have personnel dedicated to
work on the pre-approval process. Asthma is a major problem in the Lehigh Valley. Not
only do we have very high levels of allergens, but we don’t have the best air quality and
together those two factors, make it difficult for people with asthma and other respiratory
conditions. This technique is really special. Not only is it helping patients manage their
asthma, but its really helping them manage their lives. The problem with asthma is that,
you never know when the next flare is coming. One day you can be good and the next day,
you’re not and what we found is this procedure gives patients control back in their lives.