Using Heat to Treat Asthma

Twenty-million Americans suffer from asthma, a chronic breathing disorder that has no cure. Right now medicine is the only available treatment... But that might change.

There is a new clinical trial under way around the country that is using thermal energy to help asthma patients breathe easier. 

Asthma is a disease in which the airways are extra sensitive to certain stimuli.  When an asthma trigger is encountered, the airways become swollen and inflamed.

The muscles surrounding the airways contract, or tighten, causing the respiratory passages to become narrow.

Asthma patient, Lisa Taylor feels her chest tightening and breathing is getting harder.  She uses a resue inhaler, and it works.  But it's a quick fix that won't keep her from having more attacks.
"Asthma is one of those things where no matter what else I do, it doesn't go away. I always have to take the meds and sometimes iIhave a good day and sometimes I don't."

Researchers like Dr. Brian Louie are hoping technology can help.  He's part of a national clinical investigation to see if thermal energy can reduce, even potentially cure, asthma attacks.  "The use of energy is to apply that to the muscles so that the muscle shrinks in size.
So it cannot squeeze as hard, it cannot narrow the airway as much as it used

As the lung's airway muscle tightens, it gets thicker. The new treatment, bronchial thermoplasty, uses a catheter, with an expandable tip, to deliver heat through radio frequency. The process reduces the muscle. 

After years of suffering, Lisa hopes her participation in the study will help pave a pathway to better breathing.

Patients who receive bronchial thermoplasty are sedated and feel no pain... There are three out-patient treatments and each lasts about 45 minutes.