A bronchial thermoplasty, a new treatment for those suffering from severe asthma, is set for wider destribution across the NHS.
The procedure removes excess muscle tissue from the lungs by using radio frequency to ‘melt’ it away, allowing patients to breathe more easily.
While there used to be certain criteria thresholds that patients had to meet to be eligible for the treatment, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has since decided that it should be made more widely available.
‘This debilitating form of asthma is resistant to regular treatments, meaning many have to cope with terrifying asthma symptoms, such as gasping for breath, as well repeated trips to Accident and Emergency,’ said Joe Farrington-Douglas, the head of policy and external affairs at asthma charity, Asthma UK.
‘Until now, this treatment has only been available for specific patients at some specialist centres, but these new guidelines could mean more people with the condition could reap the benefits.’
The procedure opens up the airway previously blocked by inflamed and constricted muscle tissue in the bronchi of the lungs. The patient is put under sedation or general anaesthetic for the procedure and should experience results such as fewer and less severe asthma attacks.
Patients will need three sessions, three weeks apart, where the probe is inserted down the airway to heat the tissue to 65 degrees – the whole procedure costs approximately £7,257.
‘This is a procedure which is innovative and it does work. Asthma is a common disease and the vast majority of patients won't require this treatment,’ said NICE programme leader, Kevin Harris. ‘But for people with severe asthma this procedure could be life-changing. The committee was convinced it was safe enough and works well enough for use with standard arrangements in the NHS.’