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Alternative treatment option available to adult South Africans with uncontrolled asthma

17 December 2013
Asthma

Asthma

Many asthma sufferers unable to control the disease with medications alone

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 Approximately 10% of adults who suffer from asthma, and who are adherent, are not able to control the disease properly through the use of medication. These sufferers will know just how debilitating it can be to have uncontrolled asthma, which leads to time off work and in some cases frequent visits to hospital emergency departments. Significantly, this small proportion of patients consume more than 50% of asthma-related healthcare resources.

Physician, Professor Keertan Dheda, Head of the Division of Pulmonology at University of Cape Town Medical School and Director of the Lung Infection and Immunity Unit at UCT Private Academic Hospital says unfortunately for many adult asthma sufferers, medication alone often does not offer a complete solution for this condition. ”Help is however available through a minimally invasive bronchoscopic procedure known as bronchial thermoplasty, indicates Prof Dheda.

“Few asthma sufferers are aware of bronchial thermoplasty, which is now available at UCT Private Academic Hospital. It is a highly effective treatment option that has been shown to improve the level of asthma control and the quality of life in patients with severe asthma,” notes Prof Dheda. “The procedure is for patients over 18 years of age who have asthma that is not controlled despite taking the medication prescribed by their asthma care physician.”

One clinical study indicated that the procedure resulted in a reduction of 84% in visits to hospital emergency departments to seek treatment for respiratory distress. In another study, 79% of asthma patients reported a significant improvement in their quality of life compared to patients who did not undergo bronchial thermoplasty.

“Medications provide temporary relief to the symptoms of asthma by relaxing the constricted airways. Bronchial thermoplasty works in a completely different way, as a catheter is used to deliver heat energy to reduce excess smooth muscle in the airways, which assists in providing long-term airways control,” Prof Dheda explains.

The procedure is done by a physician trained in performing this procedure. Three sessions which take between 45 and 80 minutes each are done approximately three weeks apart and each time different parts of the airways are treated. The doctor will decide when the patient may be discharged but it is usually about two hours after the outpatient procedure.

Prof Dheda says bronchial thermoplasty is very safe but as with any procedure, it has its risks. One possible side effect is a temporary worsening of respiratory-related symptoms, but this usually resolves within a few days of standard asthma care. The risk of this happening is small, there being a 3.4% risk that the person will need to be hospitalised as a result of these symptoms.

Prof Dheda emphasises that bronchial thermoplasty is a complementary treatment to current asthma medication, not an alternative. Patients must continue to take their medication and continue to have their asthma closely monitored by their doctors. At present UCT Private academic Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital is the only accredited centre in the country that offers the procedure. Referrals may be made through contacting Prof Dheda at the email Keertan.dheda@uct.ac.za or telephone 021 4047650.

UCT Private Academic Hospital general manager, Liselle Shield, says uncontrollable asthma is a scourge to so many South Africans and a burden on the economy. “Individuals who feel that they have run out of options will be greatly relieved to learn that there are additional treatments available today. Our hospital is proud to offer bronchial thermoplasty to the people of Cape Town,” concludes Shield.