NEW ORLEANS - Each year, thousands of people in the U.S. die from asthma attacks, even though they are using medications to control it.
In New Orleans, the number of people with asthma is significantly higher than normal.
But technology is proving to be successful for severe adult cases.
In November 2011, Medical Watch showed you breakthrough technology for people with severe asthma, uncontrolled by medication. Deborah Falcon was watching.
"I am suffocating. Let me tell you, I would wake up at night, I'd be up and all of a sudden I'd be going 'gasp, gasp.' And my husband, he watched me so closely, he would jump up, get the nebulizer so I could breath," said Falcon recalling the ordeal that made her panic.
She was healthy, in shape, and then she got a respiratory virus at 40. That triggered severe asthma.
"Three or four times a year, I would be in the hospital. One time, a month at a time," Falcon remembers.
Now at 53, long term use of steroids not only put 70 pounds on her, but caused diabetes, high blood pressure, two hip replacements, back surgery, knee joint deterioration, Cushing's disease. In the meantime, she battled breast cancer and had to have a hole in heart repaired.
"They told me I had bones of a 90-year-old from the steroids," said Falcon who now walks with a cane.
LSU Health Sciences Center pulmonologist Dr. Richard Tejedor, performed Bronchial Thermoplasty on Deborah at Ochsner-Kenner. While sedated, the instrument gives bursts of radio frequency inside the narrow airways. The heat reduces the thickened smooth muscle. Tiny sections are done one at a time. The airways are treated in three different procedures, about a month apart, so each section can heal in between.
"The majority of patients have shown improvement. So around 80 percent of patients have improvement, about 20 percent don't. That's the most rewarding part, because this population of asthmatics that don't respond to medication that usually are very good, you know, get quite desperate," explained Dr. Tejedor.
"Let me tell you, he saved my life. I can go now, I go on trips now. I go in my pool. I go out to dinner. I fly to my sister's house in Houston. I mean, there is so much that I can do now that I could not do before," said Falcon.
Now this is not a cure for severe asthma, and it can take a few months to get the full effect and relief from asthma symptoms.
But the new scientific data are showing that five years after the procedure, patients' symptoms are just as good as they were right after getting relief.
For information, call Dr. Tejedor at 504-412-1785.