UofL Physicians the first in Kentucky to offer new asthma treatment

Published on November 15, 2011

Physicians with the Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Disorders Medicine practice of University Medical Associates (UMA), in partnership with University Hospital, are the first in Kentucky to offer a new and innovative asthma treatment to patients. The Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System is the first non-pharmacological treatment for adults with severe, persistent asthma who don’t respond to standard medical interventions. Bronchial thermoplasty complements current asthma maintenance medications by providing long-lasting control and improving asthma-related quality of life for patients.

“As pulmonologists, we are often referred patients who have very difficult-to-control asthma,” said Rodney Folz, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Disorders Medicine - UMA. “While many patients’ asthma can be controlled with inhaler medications, oral pills or immunotherapy shots, combined with avoidance of environmental exposures, there are some whose asthma simply won’t respond to these treatments. Individuals with this form of severe, persistent asthma have had no other effective treatment alternatives, until now.”

Bronchial thermoplasty treatment is performed through the working channel of a standard flexible bronchoscope that is introduced through a patient’s nose or mouth, and into their lungs. The tip of the small diameter catheter is expanded to contact the walls of targeted airways. Controlled thermal energy is then delivered to the airway walls to reduce the presence of excess airway smooth muscle that narrows the airways in patients with asthma. The minimally invasive procedure, like many other flexible endoscopy procedures, is done under moderate sedation, and the patient returns home the same day. Studies have demonstrated that patients who use this treatment have an 84 percent decrease in ER visits, 73 percent decrease in hospitalizations, 66 percent decrease in lost days at work and a 32 percent decrease in asthma attacks.

Tanya Wiese, M.D., an interventional pulmonologist, received special training on the device, and will serve as the lead physician performing bronchial thermoplasty treatment. Treatments will be performed in the endoscopy/ bronchoscopy unit at University Hospital. Patients will receive follow-up care at the private practice offices of UMA.

“We pulmonary physicians at UofL Physicians are very excited to be able to offer this new treatment to patients and their physicians,” Folz said. “We collaborate with allergists, primary care physicians and pulmonologists, all of whom take care of patients with asthma, to provide this highly specialized treatment intervention. We are pleased to the first to provide this major medical advance to all Kentuckians.”