Trials for Asthma Treatment Begin
Asthmatx has begun to enroll asthma patients in a clinical trial of bronchial thermoplasty, which could become the first treatment for the condition that does not involve medication, the AP/ St. Petersburg Times reports.
For thermoplasty, which involves three 30-minute outpatient treatments, physicians sedate asthma patients and move a bronchoscope through their noses or throats and into the airways in their lungs. Physicians inflate a wire basket on the end of the bronchoscope to contact the airway walls and send radiofrequency waves through the wires. The RF waves heat the tissues that block the ability of asthma patients to breathe to 149 degrees and disintegrate them.
The trial will involve at least 300 asthma patients at 18 U.S. hospitals and 12 facilities abroad. Trial participants will either receive thermoplasty or a simulated procedure in which physicians do not heat the wires.
A study published this month in the American Journal for Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that, among 16 asthma patients who received thermoplasty, most experienced improved breathing and had more days without symptoms by three months after treatment, according to lead study author Gerald Cox of McMaster University in Canada. The study also found that coughing and wheezing were common side effects of thermoplasty but only lasted for a few days, Cox said.
A second study, presented on Monday at an American Thoracic Society meeting, found similar results among the half of 108 asthma patients who received thermoplasty. However, "no one knows the long-term effects" of thermoplasty -- which does not "promise a cure" -- and each treatment could cost more than $2,000, the AP/Times reports (AP/St. Petersburg Times, 5/23).