New treatment to curb asthma attacks

September 17, 2012 2:56:55 PM PDT
60 million people suffer from allergies and asthma. There's no cure, but now doctors have a new weapon to help these people attack the annoying symptoms.

Karen Ecker lived the last five years a prisoner inside her own home

"I couldn't have the windows open at all. My daughter would be playing outside and I'd get to watch her, sorry," Ecker said, weeping.

One day she was fine. The next she couldn't breathe. Suffering severe asthma, simply leaving her house was dangerous.

"My lips would turn blue and I would just cough uncontrollably," Ecker said.

Anti-allergy medication, even steroids-did nothing to help. Then the FDA approved bronchial thermoplasty. It uses radio-frequency energy to heat up problem areas.

"It seems to reduce the thickness of the smooth muscle, which may reduce the spasming," said Sumita B. Khatri, MD, MS Co-Director Asthma Center Cleveland Clinic Respiratory Institute.

A catheter goes through the nose or mouth, into the lungs and delivers thermal energy to the airways.

"And this basket has 4 metal struts on it, which is used to apply heat to the airways of the lung," Khatri said.

It's not a cure, but it's given Karen a chance to start crossing things off her bucket list.

"The first one on the list was a picnic with Steph outside," Ecker said.

Also, checked off, a trip to the zoo, fireworks, a family vacation, going out to dinner and this, her celebration thermoplasty garden!

"It's just a symbol of freedom just to be outside. At first I would stand at the window and look at it and dream of the day I would be standing out here," Ecker said.

Lifestyle changes, steroid inhalers and nasal sprays are a first line of asthma defense. Bronchial therapy is only used for severe asthma sufferers and has been shown to improve the quality of life by reducing asthma symptoms, lessen the severity of flare-ups and reduce the number of emergency room visits.

For more information, please visit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

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