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New Treatment for Severe Asthma Available at Phelps
(April 11, 2013) More than 24 million Americans live with asthma, a respiratory disease that causes the airways in the lungs to constrict and makes it difficult to breathe. For people with asthma, this condition can significantly impact their quality of life and in some cases can be life threatening. Although there is no permanent cure for asthma, it can typically be managed with medications.
For people who have severe, persistent asthma, however, this condition is particularly debilitating. Their asthma may not be well controlled even though they are taking the highest doses of asthma medications available.
The lungs consist of multiple airway passages surrounded by smooth muscle. Due to chronic inflammation and spasm, the smooth muscle in the airway passages of asthma sufferers can be thicker than in people without asthma. The resulting narrowing of the airways increases resistance to normal airflow in the lungs and leads to the well-known symptoms of wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
A new FDA-approved treatment for people 18 and older with severe asthma that is not controlled by medications is now available at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow, the only facility in the Hudson Valley to offer it. The procedure, called bronchial thermoplasty, uses radiofrequency energy to reduce the thickness of the smooth muscle in the airway and limit its ability to contract and narrow the airway. The Phelps pulmonologists trained in this treatment are Alex Fijman, MD, and Laurence Miller, MD.
“Throughout my years of practicing pulmonary medicine, I have often been frustrated when severely asthmatic patients under my care continue to have frequent exacerbations requiring ER visits despite being on maximum doses of medications, including high-dose steroids, which can cause significant side effects,” says Dr. Miller. “It is exciting to now be able to offer this new non-pharmacological, state-of-the-art procedure at Phelps. It has no side effects and helps improve the quality of life for these patients.”
Dr. Fijman concurs, “I am very pleased to be able to participate with Phelps in introducing this revolutionary and potentially life-changing new therapy to patients throughout Westchester, who benefit from having access to this cutting-edge option close to home.”
During the procedure, which is normally done in an outpatient setting under moderate sedation, a bronchoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end) is introduced into the patient’s lungs through the nose. A catheter is then inserted through the bronchoscope, where it delivers radiofrequency energy to the airway walls, reducing the narrowing of the airways due to smooth muscle. Bronchial thermoplasty is administered in three separate treatments, scheduled approximately three weeks apart. Each treatment lasts from 30-60 minutes. The technology used is called the Alair System, which is manufactured by Boston Scientific.
The treatment is not a cure for asthma, but patients usually find they can take their asthma medications less frequently. Most importantly, bronchial thermoplasty has been shown to reduce the severity of asthma attacks, visits to the emergency room, and time lost from work, school and other daily activities.
For a referral to a physician who performs this procedure, call Phelps Physician Referral at 914-366-3367.