Beating asthma with heat

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (KARE) — A new procedure is offering significant relief to asthma sufferers.

Thirty million people in the United States have asthma, but in some cases it is so severe that it can be difficult to control with medications.

The new procedure, bronchial thermoplasty, is being offered at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

Pulmonologist, Dr. H. Erhan Dincer, performs the procedure using a device made by Boston Scientific.

“By using the bronchoscope, we go through their airways and apply heat to their airways and we aim to shrink the smooth muscle around the airways,” Dincer said.

Sections of smooth muscle inside the airways are heated to about 150 degrees, 10 seconds at a time.

“Basically, we shrink the smooth muscle around the air tubes so it basically opens up the airways and they can breathe easier,” Dincer explained.

The whole process includes three treatments, three weeks apart, treating three different areas of the lungs. In all, it takes nine weeks.

Greg Morgan had the bronchial thermoplasty procedure last October.

His severe asthma had him on his couch for a whole month last summer. He says he used his inhaler and nebulizer from ten to 26 times a day. Within a two-year period, he was hospitalized seven times.

“There’s no feeling in the world like not being able to breathe,” Morgan said.

But since the procedure, he’s been able to get back to work full time. He called it a small miracle.

“I have not used either the inhaler or the nebulizer at all since then. So it’s been just an amazing turn of events for me,” he said.

Bronchial thermoplasty is only offered to those with severe asthma, and not everyone with severe asthma qualifies for it.

While this procedure is still quite new, Dincer thinks with more study, it could eventually be offered to others with asthma.

While it was FDA approved in 2010, not all insurance plans cover bronchial thermoplasty, but Dincer is hopeful that will also change in the next couple years.

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