A new NHS-backed treatment could dramatically improve the day-to-day lives of people plagued by severe asthma attacks and who require regular trips to A&E.
The new procedure involves a tiny probe that resembles an egg whisk being inserted into the lungs. This emits heat that shrinks scarred, thickened lung tissue, and aids breathing.
Although the minimally invasive operation has been performed since 2011, NHS watchdogs the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have now given it the green light, after studies showed it reduced emergency hospital admissions for life-threatening asthma attacks by 55 per cent – and that benefits continue for ten years after treatment.
The NICE decision means it can be routinely offered to patients. One patient transformed by the treatment is Nicola Kerr, 43, who within two months of having surgery earlier this year was able to complete a 170-mile hike in the French mountains.
This would have been impossible for Nicola before as intense exercise could easily trigger a terrifying, life-threatening attack.
She said: ‘Instead of reaching for the inhalers every morning and coughing all day, I now wake up fine. It’s simply changed my life.’
About 5.4 million Britons suffer from asthma and of these, 200,000 are believed to have severe symptoms that leave them regularly gasping for breath, and requiring urgent medical care. The disease kills more than 1,400 each year.
Asthma affects the small tubes or airways that carry air in and out of the lungs, with attacks triggered by so-called allergens – substances that are harmless to the majority of people, but can cause an immune system reaction in those with the illness.
This response leads to the lining of the lungs becoming inflamed and swollen, so the airways narrow, making it harder for air to pass through.
One patient transformed by the treatment is Nicola Kerr, 43, who within two months of having surgery earlier this year was able to complete a 170-mile hike in the French mountains
Inhaled or oral steroids prevent attacks by reducing the inflammation making the airways narrow.
But for many, the severity of inflammation is such that drugs no longer work to open the airway.
These NHS patients will now be offered the treatment, called bronchial thermoplasty, which uses a type of heat called radiofrequency to reduce airway narrowing.
‘Some of our patients had difficulty walking upstairs, and are now doing intensely physical things like rock-climbing,’ says Professor Pallav Shah,