The F.D.A has just approved the first non-drug asthma treatment. It could change the lives of many of the 20 million Americans who have a hard time doing what most of us take for granted.
It's not the saws and the hammers that makes Jeff Craddock's job dangerous, it's the dust.
"We have either the saw dust or the dry wall dust, or we have the insulation back here," said Craddock.
He feared he would have to sell his business to save his life. "I would have to use a rescue inhaler at a minimum, three, four, five times a day," said Craddock.
When medication failed, he tried a new approach: Bronchial Thermoplasty. With normal breathing, the airways of the lungs are fully open. People with severe asthma have more muscle surrounding their airways. The excess muscle combined with inflammation makes the walls even thicker. During bronchial thermoplasty, a small tube is inserted through the mouth or nose into the lungs. The catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to the muscles around the windpipe.
"This brings the wires in contact with the lining of the breathing tube, according to David R. Duhamel M.D. Director of the Pulmonary Special Procedures Unit at Virginia Hospital Center.
The heat prevents the muscles from contracting and narrowing during an attack.
It's about the temperature of a warm cup of coffee. It's not burning. It's not sparking. It's not ablating anything, "said Dr. Duhamel.
According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a new study shows a 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks, 84-percent drop in E.R visits, 73 percent reduction in hospital stays, and a 66 percent drop in lost time from work or school.
The new therapy allowed Craddock to do chores that used to take his breath away. "Breathing in, it doesn't affect me anymore. I'm not at home just trying to exist. I'm actually working," said Craddock.
Doctor Duhamel stressed that this device does not cure asthma; it only improves the patient's quality of life and helps them breathe easier. There's little risk since there is no incision, but patients may suffer from worse asthma symptoms in the days immediately following the procedure.