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Bronchial Thermoplasty Cuts Asthma Exacerbations

Industry-funded study finds technique reduces incidence of mild exacerbation events

THURSDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- Heat-controlled reduction of smooth muscle mass in the airways via bronchial thermoplasty can improve quality of life and reduce mild exacerbations for at least one year in patients with asthma, according to the results of a study published in the March 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gerard Cox, M.B., of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues from the Asthma Intervention Research Trial Study Group randomized 112 adult patients with moderate to severe persistent asthma into two groups: one group received bronchial thermoplasty with an Asthmatx Alair system and the other did not. Patients were assessed at three, six and 12 months post-therapy to see if removal of long-acting beta-2-adrenergic agonists resulted in asthmatic exacerbation.

At 12 months, the mean number of mild (but not severe) exacerbation events in the bronchial thermoplasty group had decreased by half, amounting to some 10 fewer mild exacerbations per patient per year. In the control group the number remained essentially unchanged. Patients in the bronchial thermoplasty group saw improvements in morning peak expiratory flow, symptom-free days and symptom score, but also were at higher risk for adverse respiratory events immediately following treatment. The number of adverse events between six weeks and 12 months post-therapy was the same between groups.

"The results reported by Cox and colleagues suggest that we should now contemplate other approaches to targeting airway smooth muscle that might prove to be less invasive, more practical, and more amenable to application throughout the airways [than bronchial thermoplasty]," the authors of an accompanying editorial suggest.

This study was supported by Asthmatx.

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