Normally when a person breathes, the airway muscles are relaxed giving sufficient space for the air to move in and out. In case of asthma the airway muscles contract (become tight) and the inner lining of the airways becomes swollen-up due to inflammation. This may cause mucus production, which clogs up the airway. All this consequently leads to narrowing of the airways, making it difficult for the affected person to breathe.
Though treatments available were limited up till now, researchers have come up with a revolutionary treatment for asthma called Bronchial thermoplasty. This procedure is done under general anesthesia. The procedure involves inserting a tube through a bronchoscope (placed through the nose or mouth). Once the tube is inserted the airway is treated with radio frequency energy (controlled thermal energy), which is converted to heat when it comes in contact with the airway walls. The heat prevents the muscles in the airways from contracting (getting tight), thereby reducing the severity and frequency of asthma attacks. Each sitting of the procedure requires half an hour and the patient has to do undergo three procedures. A gap of four week is kept between two sittings.
The studies conducted till now have shown a positive effect and minimal side effects. A few patients developed cough, which was relieved quickly but in some cases asthma got aggravated for 2 hours. The researchers believe that bronchial thermoplasty will not only relieve severity and frequency of asthma but will also reduce medication dependency.
However, the procedure is still in its early stages. With some more studies to support these findings, it will prove to be a boon for asthma patients.