There is hope for chronic asthma sufferers who have, until now, not responded well to conventional medicine and treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Alair, a new non-drug treatment for adult sufferers with the most severe cases of asthma. Asthmatx, Inc. developed a method of eliminating some of the excess tissue that squeezes airways shut during an asthma attack.
Available at the end of May, 2010, it is the first treatment able to radically improve airways prone to spasms.
The treatment is known as Bronchial thermoplasty (BT) and involves a flexible broncho-scope that is inserted through a patient's nose or mouth and into their lungs. The tip of the Alair catheter expands to touch the walls of the airway. Then a highly precise amount of thermal energy is delivered to the airway walls to reduce, or simply melt away, the smooth muscle responsible for narrowing the airways in asthma patients. This would be performed under a local anesthetic and patients would be allowed to go home on the same day.
The Alair system was developed as a result of findings from the Air2 Trial which assessed the effectiveness of BT on asthma patients. The findings were published in the January 15, 2010, edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM). The study found that after a year of BT treatment symptoms improved, with a reported 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks and 54 percent less emergency room visits.
“There are patients who, despite receiving high levels of asthma medications, continue to suffer from asthma attacks, which often result in emergency room visits and impose significant limitations on their daily activities. Bronchial thermoplasty offers the patients an important new way to control their disease,” said Dr. Mario Castro, professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the Washington University School of Medicine and lead investigator of the Air2 Trial.