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Open airways

H. Erhan Dincer, M.D.

U physician offers new treatment for those with asthma

Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat.

For most of us, breathing comes so naturally that we do it without thinking. But for people with asthma, breathing isn’t something to be taken for granted.

Many of the 30 million Americans with asthma can control symptoms with medications and inhalers. But those with severe asthma can have difficulty controlling life-threatening symptoms—leaving them unable to function in their daily lives and sometimes requiring hospitalization to stabilize their breathing.

Just last year, University of Minnesota pulmonologist H. Erhan Dincer, M.D., began offering a new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty, which helps patients with uncontrolled asthma better manage their symptoms and live more normal lives.

“This procedure improves the quality of life by reducing emergency room, hospital, and doctor visits,” says Dincer. “It decreases the use of medications for asthma and allows patients to have fewer symptoms.”

A promising new treatment

Using a bronchoscope, Dincer goes into a patient’s airway through the nose or mouth and applies 150-degree heat in 10-second intervals. The heat shrinks the smooth muscle around the airway, opening the airway and making breathing a lot easier.

The treatment, which Dincer notes is painless, is divided into three sessions. Over a nine-week period, different sections of the lungs receive treatment, with a three-week break between each session. After the nine weeks, Dincer says, most patients return to a normal life, without the frequent use of an inhaler or other interventions.

Greg Morgan, a respiratory therapist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, was treated with bronchial thermoplasty by Dincer. Morgan has suffered from severe asthma since childhood, but now thanks to this procedure, his life has improved.

“Fifteen days after my last bronchial thermoplasty session, I started feeling good. It was that day that I used my nebulizer [only] twice,” he says. “I haven’t used it since.”

Prime candidates for bronchial thermoplasty are those who are on many medications, experience harsh side-effects from them, and still have asthma symptoms.

“Our patients are handpicked,” says Dincer. “We choose those who have uncontrolled asthma—those who will benefit from this treatment.”

Raising awareness and funds

Dincer says that building awareness and advocating for this fairly new procedure are important parts of his job because the treatment could benefit a larger population.

“There are hundreds of thousands of asthma patients out there that don’t know this [treatment] exists,” he says. “The main goal is to see more patients and help them.”

“Public awareness of this treatment and reaching out those who suffer from asthma are critical and may help thousands,” says Dincer. “We definitely need more support not only from the patients and their families, but from everyone who likes to help in their community.”

Do you know people who could benefit from this procedure? Send them this story.

Do you want to support lung-related research at the University of Minnesota? Give now.

By Grace Birnstengel

To find out if bronchial thermoplasty is right for you, call for an appointment at 612-624-5864.

For more information, contact H. Erhan Dincer, M.D., at hedincer@umn.edu.

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