Keck Medicine of USC among first in U.S. to offer bronchial thermoplasty for long-lasting control of severe asthma in adults

March 10, 2014

Contact: Alison Trinidad at (323) 442-3941 or

LOS ANGELES — A new procedure at Keck Medicine of USC may give people with severe, uncontrolled asthma a much-needed breath of life. The medical center is among the first in the United States to offer bronchial thermoplasty, an outpatient treatment that provides long-lasting control of this chronic disease.

USC was one of 39 participating sites in a landmark clinical trial of the Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System that showed a 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks after treatment. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010, the system is the first medical device that uses radiofrequency energy to treat severe and persistent asthma in select patients ages 18 and older.

“Patients who suffer from persistent, uncontrollable asthma have few treatment options to adequately manage their disease,” said pulmonologist Richard Barbers, M.D., professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and principal investigator of the clinical trial at USC. “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.”

The airways of people who have asthma can become swollen and narrowed, making breathing difficult. The Alair system, manufactured by Boston Scientific, uses mild heat to reduce the thickness of smooth muscle in the airways, improving a patient’s ability to breathe. It is a minimally invasive procedure that involves insertion of a small tube into the patient’s lungs via the nose or mouth. To benefit, patients will need to undergo three, hour-long sessions over the course of two months to target different areas in the lungs. Each session is done under moderate sedation, and the patient generally returns home the same day.

In the United States, asthma affects 22 million people, accounting for 2 million emergency room visits, 500,000 hospitalizations and 4,000 deaths every year. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), managing unstable asthma consumes over $18 billion of healthcare resources each year.

“Asthma is a life-long condition that can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life,” said Scott Evans, Pharm.D., M.H.A., CEO of Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital. “At USC, our doctors and staff are committed to finding innovative ways to restore our patients’ health. Bronchial thermoplasty is one example of that commitment, providing an option for people who have so few available to breathe comfortably.”

Bronchial thermoplasty is designed to reduce the number of severe asthma attacks on a long-term basis. The most common side effect is an expected temporary increase in the frequency and worsening of respiratory-related symptoms during treatment. The system is not recommended for asthma patients with a pacemaker, internal defibrillator or other implantable electronic device. Nor is it recommended for patients with known sensitivities to lidocaine, atropine or benzodiazepines. Patients should be stable and suitable to undergo bronchoscopy.

For more information on bronchial thermoplasty at Keck Medicine of USC, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or go to


Image: Airways before and after bronchial thermoplasty treatment. Courtesy Boston Scientific

Note to editors: Patient testimonials, video, animations and artwork available upon request.

Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area. Encompassing academic, research and clinical entities, it consists of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the region’s first medical school; the renowned USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the first comprehensive cancer centers established in the United States; the USC Care Medical Group, the medical faculty practice; the Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes two acute care hospitals: 401-licensed bed Keck Hospital of USC and 60-licensed bed USC Norris Cancer Hospital; and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-licensed bed community hospital. It also includes outpatient facilities in Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, and the USC University Park Campus. USC faculty physicians and Keck School of Medicine departments also have practices throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. The Keck Medicine of USC world-class medical facilities are staffed by nearly 600 physicians who are faculty at the renowned Keck School of Medicine of USC and part of USC Care Medical Group. They are not only clinicians, but cutting-edge researchers, leading professors and active contributors to national and international professional medical societies and associations.