New Treatment Zaps Asthma

Stephanie Reichart used to be a nurse, but she had to give that up when severe, chronic asthma took over her lungs.

A life-long asthma sufferer, Stephanie’s condition started to deteriorate in her early 40s. By her 50th birthday, she could barely walk up a few stairs. Just taking a shower was difficult because the humidity made it hard to breath.

“I was depressed,” Stephanie admitted. “There were things I wanted to do, but my lungs told me I couldn’t.”

Doctors prescribed drugs and inhalers, plus regular doses of prednisone, a steroid that came with side effects like weight gain and cataracts. But despite all the medication, Stephanie’s condition was still far from stable.

“I’m a frequent flyer in the ER,” Stephanie joked as she talked about making almost monthly visits to the emergency room. She’s been intubated (put on a breathing device) five times, including one incident that put her in intensive care for 11 days.

A Challenging Case

All that changed when Stephanie was referred to Dr. Raul Mendoza at Aurora BayCare Medical Center. Dr. Mendoza evaluated Stephanie and decided she was a good candidate for a new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty.

“Stephanie was a very challenging case,” he said. “We were at the maximum medical treatments, and she wasn’t getting better. But we did have this new therapy.”  

Bronchial thermoplasty involves delivering radiofrequency waves to a patient’s airways. The heat reduces the excessive smooth muscle inside the lungs, decreasing the muscle’s ability to constrict or spasm. The therapy takes three treatments, each delivered three weeks apart.

“It’s similar to a microwave,” Dr. Mendoza explains. “It loosens the muscle and improves lung function.”

Getting Years Back

One month after treatment, Stephanie can go up and down stairs with relative ease. Plus, she’s off the prednisone and has already lost 13 pounds. Next, she’s looking forward to taking walks with her husband and playing with her grandkids.

“It’s like I got 17 years back on my life,” she says. “I’m hoping I can even go back to nursing.”

Dr. Mendoza is also pleased with Stephanie’s results.

“Every time I see her she is doing better and better,” Dr. Mendoza said. “We’ve been cutting her medications. She isn’t going to be thinking about her asthma on a daily basis anymore, and that is a success.”

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