New treatment for severe asthmatic patients

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A new treatment for patient with severe asthma is helping them to breath a lot easier without medications.

It's called Bronchial Thermoplasty and Dr. Mark Esterle with Louisville Pulmonary Care is performing the procedure at Baptist Hospital East.

It's a first of its kind treatment of the patient's airways. Dr. Esterle calls it a potential "game-changer" for patients with severe asthma. Using a catheter to access the airways, the procedure uses radio frequency to emit heat. "It actually thins the muscle around the airways, the smooth muscle" said Dr. Esterle.

It's the area that becomes inflamed when triggered by irritants and when it closes down, it allows more air to flow through.

"It does not cure asthma" said Esterle, "they still would have a reaction to their triggers, they just don't have the ability to react in the same fashion as they would before."

Tony Willouby became asthmatic when exposed to chemicals in his workplace in 2006. He's been on medications since, though they didn't always control the disease. He's had one long hospitalization with a severe asthma attack and he's often missed work because of the disease.

He's the first patient for Dr. Esterle and is so far a success.

The treatment is an outpatient procedure. Treatment on each section of the lung is performed a few weeks apart because patients can get worse before they get better.  

But the results in studies are impressive, a 32% reduction in asthma attacks, an 84% reduction in ER visits, a 73% reduction in hospitalizations and a 66% reduction in lost days from work and school.  

Tony's breathing treatments are already showing significant improvements and he still has one more procedure to go. "It's a lot better, I'm probably about 60% better I think."

He's already cut back on the Advair and the use of his rescue inhaler.

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