Bronchial Thermoplasty

Medication can often control even severe asthma. But, in cases where medication alone isn't enough, a nondrug treatment called bronchial thermoplasty may help.

UI Health is one of only a few programs in Chicago to offer this innovative, outpatient procedure. Our Interventional Pulmonology team, led by Dr. Kevin Kovitz, has unique expertise in performing this minimally invasive procedure.

How Does Bronchial Thermoplasty Treat Asthma?

Air travels in and out of your lungs through airways, and these airways can narrow due to inflammation or muscle contraction due to many causes. When airways narrow, it can become harder to breathe. Your chest may feel tight. You may wheeze or cough.

Asthma medicines usually open up the airways, but for some people, other options need to be considered.

Bronchial thermoplasty uses heat to reduce the smooth muscles in the airways that usually tighten and cause constriction during asthma attacks. Reducing airway smooth muscle decreases the frequency of asthma attacks that occur due to the inability of the airways to constrict.

During the procedure, the patient is placed under moderate sedation. The physician places a standard flexible tube — called a bronchoscope — into the airway through either the nose or the mouth. A catheter is inserted by way of the bronchoscope and delivers energy to the airway wall for up to 10 seconds at a time. The physician repeats this process in all of the accessible airways planned for each bronchoscopy session. The result is a controlled reduction of the airway muscle.

Typically, three separate outpatient sessions are required to complete the treatment.

What are the Benefits of Bronchial Thermoplasty?

Bronchial thermoplasty works along with asthma maintenance medications to provide long-lasting asthma control and improve asthma-related quality of life for patients with severe asthma. Benefits seen by adults who've received bronchial thermoplasty include:

  • Fewer asthma attacks
  • Fewer emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms
  • Fewer hospitalizations for respiratory symptoms
  • Fewer days lost from work, school, or other daily activities due to asthma symptoms

Does Bronchial Thermoplasty Have Risks or Side Effects?

In some cases, patients who receive bronchial thermoplasty have their asthma symptoms briefly get worse in the days after treatment. Occasionally, this can lead to hospitalization. Our team will do all we can to minimize the risk of these problems. In order to decrease the chance of an asthma attack or need for hospitalization, patients typically take a 3-day short course of prednisone beginning the day prior to the procedure. Talk with your physician about your particular risk factors.

Who is a Candidate for Bronchial Thermoplasty?

Bronchial thermoplasty is an option for people 18 years and older who have severe asthma that is not controlled despite the use of appropriate medications.

Schedule an Asthma Management Appointment

Whether you are interested in learning more about bronchial thermoplasty or need advice on other strategies to control asthma, our team of lung health specialists can help.

To request an appointment, please fill out the online form or call 312.996.3300.