Keck heads new asthma treatment

The Keck School of Medicine of USC participated in a breakthrough clinical trial of the Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System, an outpatient treatment mechanism created by Boston Scientific that provides lasting relief to patients with chronic asthma.

“There is no cure for the disease, but bronchial thermoplasty has been shown to improve a patient’s quality of life by reducing his or her asthma attacks and asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits,” said Richard Barbers, pulmonologist and professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and lead investigator of the trial at USC, in a press release.

Patients with asthma are unable to breathe normally because of swelling and subsequent narrowing of their airways. The Alair system, approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2010, uses radiofrequency energy to generate mild heat and reduce the thickness of the airway muscles, allowing the patient to breathe more easily.

During treatment, patients undergo three hourlong sessions over two months during which a small tube is inserted into the lungs through the nose or mouth. The trial that USC participated in revealed a 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks after sessions.

Asthma affects approximately 22 million people in the United States and kills as many as 4,000 annually. The Alair system can provide proven lasting relief. Currently, the most common side effect is a temporary worsening of symptoms.

“Asthma is a lifelong condition that can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life,” said Scott Evans, CEO of Keck Hospital of USC and the USC Norris Cancer Hospital, in a press release. “At USC, our doctors and staff are committed to finding innovative ways to restore our patients’ health.”