Doctors offer surgical approach for treating asthma

Bronchial thermoplasty may reduce, eliminate need for medications

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - For more than 30 years, Miriam Rivera did everything she could to ease her asthma.

"Allergy shots, medication, the machines, nebulizer, all kinds of things," said Rivera. "I got better one day. The next day, I got sick."

When all else fails, asthma patients like Rivera may qualify for a surgical procedure that focuses on relaxing muscles that wrap around the breathing pipes.

"It's called bronchial thermoplasty," said Dr. Eduardo Oliveira,a pulmonologist with the Cleveland Clinic Florida. "It's a radio frequency ablation of the airway. It's mostly thermal or heat energy that is delivered and that causes controlled damage of these breathing muscles and when patients get exposed to allergens or triggers, they don't contract as much and they breathe better."

While not a cure for asthma, bronchial thermoplasty can greatly improve the quality of life for asthma suffers who have continued to see the condition worsen under standard therapies.

"This procedure is not for everyone. There is a limited patient population that we would consider for this," said Oliveira.

The three step process takes two months to complete but Rivera said she began feeling better after the first surgery. Now that the process is complete, she said she has been able to eliminate some of the medications she used to rely on and can now take part in daily activities that were once impossible.

"I can shop and go on trips with my husband," Rivera said. "Right now, I feel like a new person. I feel very happy, very satisfied.

To reach Cleveland Clinic Florida, call: 877-463-2010.

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