By Austin Sheeley

For those with severe asthma, medications taken through a nebulizer or inhaler aren’t always enough to keep them out of the hospital. But now, a new treatment may be able to do just that.

Recently, the FDA approved bronchial thermoplasty—the first even non-pharmaceutical asthma treatment. As I’m sure many of our readers know, during an asthma attack the muscles in one’s lung contract and restrict airflow. Bronchial thermoplasty prevents this by using a catheter to deliver heated electrical zaps to those muscles and, basically, burn off the outer layer. This doesn’t reduce airway hyper-responsiveness, but it does make it so there’s less muscle to contract and restrict airflow.

The procedure requires three sessions, costs tens of thousands of dollars and isn’t covered by many insurers. However, studies have shown that it reduces the number of asthma attacks by a third and on average decreases emergency room visits by a whopping 70%. Considering hospital stays can cost tens of thousands, for many people bronchial thermoplasty is well worth it.

So far, no major safety issues have been found, although in the short term it does worsen symptoms. But once patients recover from the procedure, it can be life changing.

Take 28 year old Virginia Rady, for example. She’s had to live with asthma since she was a toddler and avoid exercise, pets, and even stress. Plus, she wasn’t able to have kids due to all the asthma medications she was taking. Now, after receiving bronchial thermoplasty she’s exercising regularly, has a dog, and in the not-too-distant future hopes to have children.