Unique surgical treatment called bronchial thermoplasty can help manage severe asthma

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jul 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-03 18:45:59-04

CINCINNATI -- Even with medication meant to help her manage her attacks, Lisa Levan's asthma used to put her in the hospital about once a month, she said Tuesday. Even everyday activities such as going for a walk meant going with a tight grip on her inhaler in case another attack started.

"Your chest gets really tight," she said, describing an asthma attack. "You're trying to catch your breath, trying to figure out how to breathe."

Dr. Sadia Benzaquen thought there might be a way to help her breathe easier. He proposed she undergo bronchial thermoplasty, a unique treatment for especially severe cases of asthma.

Bronchial thermoplasty involves inserting a small, flexible tube called a bronchoscope into the patient's airways through their nose and mouth. The bronchoscope uses heat to destroy small amounts of smooth muscle tissue, the tissue that contracts and causes difficulty breathing when an asthmatic person has an attack.

"It improves the quality of life and decreases meds they need to use to control asthma," Benzaquen said.

For Levan, who went through the procedure, that's exactly what happened. Although bronchial thermoplasty isn't a cure, it's been a help for her. She still grabs her inhaler on her way out the door, but she hasn't had to use it more than twice since receiving the surgery.