Advancements in Asthma Treatment

Since I’m studying asthma and work on asthma education issues almost every day I wanted to blog about two advancements in asthma treatment.

The first, which is still in testing, is a genetic test that can identify which patients will respond well to steroid therapy. Corticosteroids, most commonly inhaled, are used to reduce inflammation in asthma patients. However, around 35% of patients do not respond to this sort of treatment. These genetic tests will help avoid unnecessary side-effects and help guide the treatment in a more effective direction.

The second treatment advancement I wanted to share was just approved by the FDA. Long-term inflammation in the lungs caused by severe and persistent asthma can create scar tissue in the lungs. This extra tissue makes the patients airways thicker than they should be, increasing the likelihood of asthma attacks. The thickening of the lung tissue is also known as “airway remodeling”. This component of asthma is very difficult to treat with medication and up until recently was essentially irreversible.

bronchial thermoplasty device

Using this new device, the Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System (a catheter with electrode tip and controller unit) doctors can expose the thickened smooth muscle in the airways to radiofrequency energy reducing airway thickness thereby making breathing easier and attacks less likely. It is a very “hammer on nail” type approach, yet effective nonetheless

It should be noted that this treatment is not for all. Only adult patients with severe and persistent asthma will be good candidates. Read more about the procedure on the Alair website.


2 thoughts on “Advancements in Asthma Treatment

  1. dave buchholz

    This is fascinating. I am 31 yrs old and I have had severe persistent asthma all my life and most likely have airway remodeling (my FEV is arount 60% constantly with about 2 L of air). Would a procedure like this work for those with permanently restricted airways?

    1. Sean McCormick Post author

      Hi Dave,

      I am not a physician, rather a public health doctoral student, so I cannot say definitively if this would work for you. From what I gather the bronchial thermoplasty was developed for adults with severe and persistent asthma whose airways have become “remodeled”. In other words, for folks whose inflammation has been so severe for so long that scar tissue has built up in the lungs.

      It certainly sounds like you would be a candidate. I would recommend asking your doctor about this procedure. It’s still relatively new, but I believe it has been approved by the FDA.



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