A new tiny heating device that can be inserted inside the lungs with the help of a flexible tube through the mouth or nose can help treat asthma, researchers conducting its trial said.
Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system in which the airways constrict making it hard to breathe. At its worst, asthma can be fatal.
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The tiny heater, now under trial at five hospitals in Britain, warms the lungs and airways and can last for more than two years, reported the online edition of Daily Mail.
The device gives 10-second blasts of mild heat to the muscles to stop them from contracting. No incision is required. The patient is under conscious sedation with no anaesthesia involved.
The technique, known as bronchial thermoplasty, is for patients with moderate and severe asthma.
"The early results were encouraging," said Neil Thomson, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Glasgow who leads one of the trial centres.
Exactly how it works is not clear but heat is known to relax muscles and it is thought the heat reduces the amount of muscle around the airway, which in asthma tends to increase and be hypersensitive.
An international trial involving 300 patients is under way.
Results from a small pilot study suggest it can be highly effective. Two years after their last treatment, the patients were still showing less airway narrowing.
Lyn Smurthwaite, research development manager at Asthma UK, said: "These results enhance our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the process of asthma but it is vital we see more details about the long-term effects."