Palo Alto Medical Foundation Newsroom

PAMF Physician Among First to Offer Breakthrough Treatment for Severe Asthma in Adults – Bronchial Thermoplasty

May 1, 2012 is World Asthma Day

For the millions of adults who have asthma, there has never been a cure, only medication options for preventing or treating asthma attacks. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) now offers a new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty that gives long-term relief from asthma. To date, PAMF is one of the few centers in Northern California and among the first medical providers in the United States to offer this new procedure for patients with severe asthma.

Ganesh Krishna, M.D., is an interventional pulmonologist with expertise in pulmonary critical care medicine, who practices at PAMF’s Mountain View Center. Dr. Krishna is one of only a few doctors in the United States who are experts in highly specialized, minimally invasive pulmonary treatments including bronchial thermoplasty.

A national pioneer in offering the new bronchial thermoplasty procedure, Dr. Krishna has performed this treatment more than 60 times for 22 patients (patients undergo three treatment sessions in different areas of the lungs).

“We are leaders in bronchial thermoplasty and one of the most experienced centers in the world,” Dr. Krishna said. “Our presentation of data at the California Technology Assessment Forum was instrumental in helping the expert panel form a favorable decision on this new treatment. Physicians travel to our center from all over the country for training in this breakthrough procedure.”

Bronchial thermoplasty is ideal for adults (18 years and older) who suffer from severe persistent asthma that is not well controlled with inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonists, the current standard-of-care treatments.

View an animation of the procedure 

How Bronchial Thermoplasty Works

Bronchial thermoplasty is a noninvasive procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to relieve asthma symptoms. It is performed with a flexible bronchoscope that is introduced through the patient’s nose or mouth into their lungs. During an asthma attack, the smooth muscles of the airways contract. The radiofrequency energy heats the smooth muscle walls of the airway, narrowing them without scarring or damage. The narrower muscle walls can no longer contract as much when irritants trigger asthma attacks, resulting in relief from uncomfortable asthma symptoms.

Boston Scientific is a worldwide developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices whose products are used in a broad range of interventional medical specialties. In 2010, Boston Scientific acquired Asthmatx Inc., which developed the Alair® Bronchial Thermoplasty System. The following description comes from their product information reports:

The tip of the small diameter Alair® catheter is expanded to contact the walls of targeted airways. Controlled thermal energy is then delivered to the airway walls to reduce the presence of excess airway smooth muscle that narrows the airways in patients with asthma. The minimally invasive procedure, like many other flexible endoscopy procedures, is done under moderate sedation, and the patient returns home the same day.

According to information provided by Boston Scientific, adults with severe asthma who underwent bronchial thermoplasty demonstrated that treatment resulted in improved quality of life, as well as the following clinically significant benefits during long-term follow-up:

  • 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks
  • 84 percent reduction in emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms
  • 73 percent reduction in hospitalizations for respiratory symptoms
  • 66 percent reduction in days lost from work/school or other daily activities due to asthma

The Alair® Bronchial Thermoplasty System was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2010. More details are available online.

About Asthma

Asthma is one of the most common and costly diseases in the world. The prevalence of asthma has grown in recent decades, and there is no cure. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), more than 20 million Americans have asthma, and managing unstable asthma consumes over $18 billion of health care resources each year. Every year in theUnited States, asthma attacks cause approximately 10 million outpatient visits, 2 million emergency rooms visits, 500,000 hospitalizations, and 4,000 deaths.

Traditionally, there has been no cure for asthma. Some children grow out of it but most asthmatics face the prospect of coping with it for life. They must treat their symptoms with medicines (relievers and preventers) and modify their lifestyle and activities to compensate for this respiratory vulnerability.

The bronchial thermoplasty procedure can improve patients’ quality of life, as well as considerably reduce asthma attacks, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and days lost from work, school or other daily activities due to asthma.


Patient testimonial videos on the Bronchial Thermoplasty website offer perspective on the how this procedure can improve asthma suffers’ quality of life. Animation of Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT) with the Alair® System

Learn more about Asthma and Asthma Resources on the PAMF website.