Asthma Treatment News: UK doctors begin pioneering asthma treatment

/ June 21st, 2011/ Posted in Asthma / No Comments »

UK doctors begin pioneering asthma treatment

Doctors in Manchester and Glasgow have begun treating NHS asthma patients with a pioneering treatment described as “melting away” muscle in the airways.

Instead of using drugs such as steroids, a wire probe is inserted into the lungs and then heats the tissue.

Currently, the procedure – called bronchial thermoplasty – is not being used anywhere else in Europe.

The technique uses 10-second bursts of radio waves which heat the lining of the lungs to 65 degrees Celsius.

That destroys some of the muscle tissue which constricts during an asthma attack, making breathing difficult.

Dr Rob Niven, senior lecturer in Respiratory Medicine at the University Hospital of South Manchester, who led the team carrying out the procedure at Wythenshawe Hospital, said “bronchial thermoplasty is the first non-drug treatment for asthma and it may be a new option for patients with severe asthma who have symptoms despite use of drug therapies.”

“The operation went according to plan and our patient has responded well. It will be a little while before we are able to say it’s been a complete success, but I am cautiously optimistic,” he said.

Normal airway
Airway of asthma patient has thickened muscle walls restricting the opening
Bronchoscope containing small wire probe passed into lungs
Probe is expanded so it touches walls of airways
Probe is then heated, reducing thickness of muscle tissue. Process is repeated along the airway to increase capacity

The procedure follows six years of trials in the UK, Canada and South America. Patients in the United States have been receiving the treatment for some months already.

Bronchial thermoplasty will not be used on children, says Dr Niven, and its effectiveness decreases as patients age.

Tens of thousands of patients across the UK with the most severe forms of asthma stand to benefit most from the treatment.
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Symptoms can worsen to begin with, as the heat also causes damage to the sensitive lung lining. But once this is repaired doctors say asthmatics can be helped for up to five years.

However, cost is a potential problem – it costs around £10,000 per patient, although savings could be made in the longer term through fewer hospital admissions and reductions in the costs of medicines.

It will be up to the local NHS bodies, which buy care for patients, to decide on whether to fund it, possibly on a case-by-case basis.

According to the campaign group Asthma UK, 5.4 million people in the UK have asthma and around 250,000 of these have severe asthma.

The group’s Chief Medical Adviser, Professor Ian Pavord, said of bronchial thermoplasty: “In some people with severe asthma, the symptoms of their asthma have been improved and the risk of them having an asthma attack has been reduced, so it is encouraging to see that the technique has now been carried out outside of clinical trials.”

“However, this kind of procedure will not work for everyone so we would encourage people with asthma to discuss various treatment options with their GP to find the best way for them to keep their asthma managed and under control.”

Anthropology of Asthma

Citing a study he conducted in India — in which he showed doctors video footage of people with typical asthma symptoms — Van Sickle notes that in some cultures, physicians are hesitant to diagnose patients with asthma because of social stigma.

“A diagnosis of chronic disease can impair a woman’s marital chances, and a physician is unlikely to make an unpopular diagnosis because a patient can always go down the street and get a different physician,” Van Sickle says of the study performed in India. After performing the same experiment in Wisconsin, he found that doctors were considerably more likely to associate the symptoms with asthma.

Van Sickle suggests that the additional study of lifestyle factors should reveal a better understanding of potential causes of the disease and help physicians treat and eventually prevent asthma.

Indians Eat Live Sardines to Cure Asthma

Indians Eat Live Sardines to Cure Asthma– In an effort to cure asthma, hundreds of Indians gather for an annual ‘fish medicine festival’ where live sardines are consumed. Despite efforts to battle the respiratory affliction, this somewhat bizarre tradition has garnered negative attention from human right campaigners around the world.

The festival takes place every June on a day determined by astrological means. The ‘treatment’ of eating live sardines is administered by members of the Goud family in southern India. According to the Goud family, they have been administering this treatment to those afflicted with asthma for 166 years.
Indians Eat Live Sardines to Cure Asthma

Millions of people suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases in India. The treatment the Goud family administers is taking a live sardine and smearing it with ‘secret’ spices. According to legend, this recipe of ‘secret’ spices was given to them by a Hindu Saint who said they could never profit from it. For that reason the hundreds of thousands of people over the years who have come to the Goud family have received their sardines for free.

There is no evidence that this is effective in any way. Human rights organizations are protesting about children’s participation in the event. They think that their lack of consent and the questionable hygienic practices are in violation of basic human rights.

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