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Sharp Health News

Hope for severe asthma sufferers

April 5, 2016

Hope for severe asthma sufferers

Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s first bronchial thermoplasty (BT) patient, Theresa Cannizzaro, talks with Dr. Kaveh Bagheri in his office before her first BT procedure.

"I could talk for hours about how great life is post-bronchial thermoplasty."

A year ago, Theresa Cannizzaro could not play with her children in the park without feeling out of breath. Today she can run, do Zumba and be more active than ever before — all thanks to bronchial thermoplasty (BT), a minimally invasive procedure for severe asthmatics now offered at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Theresa was the hospital's first patient to undergo the procedure.

When reflecting on the impact BT has made on her life, the 33-year-old respiratory therapist and mother of three is all smiles. Nearly one year after her first procedure, Theresa's asthma symptoms and attacks have decreased and her lung capacity has improved drastically.

Theresa has battled severe asthma since age 8, at times taking up to seven daily medications to control it. She always carried a rescue inhaler because daily activities often left her breathless and vulnerable to an attack.

Asthma is a fairly common condition that affects nearly 25 million Americans. In asthma patients, the layer of muscle lining the breathing tubes thickens over time, narrowing the airway and making breathing difficult. Between 5 and 10 percent of asthma patients suffer from a dangerous form that can result in frequent emergency room visits or even death. Bronchial Thermoplasty is designed for those patients, whose asthma is difficult to control despite maximal medical treatment.

As a respiratory therapist, Theresa is quite familiar with her condition and how to care for herself. Last year, after noticing that her asthma had been worsening, she made an appointment with her doctor to discuss other treatment options. After a series of tests, she was approved for bronchial thermoplasty and referred to Dr. Kaveh Bagheri at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

"Despite undergoing multiple medical therapies and taking a high-dose steroid, Theresa's asthma was not under control and she was always short of breath," explains Dr. Bagheri. "There were no additional medications available that could help with her symptoms."

During the procedure, heat is applied to the muscle that lines the airway using a long instrument inserted through the breathing tubes. The heat — applied during three separate procedures — relaxes the muscles and opens up the airway. BT was approved by the FDA in 2010 after a major study showed that it significantly improved asthma-related quality of life for almost 80 percent of patients, and reduced emergency room visits and attacks by 84 percent.

Immediately following each procedure, there is typically an increase in respiratory-related symptoms that resolves within seven days, on average, with standard care.

When asked if the recovery was worth the result, Theresa's response is an overwhelming yes. "The rewards of the procedure are priceless and limitless. It's not a cure, but the difference in my asthma has been night and day. I would 100 percent recommend it for people like me."

For the media: To speak with Dr. Kaveh Bagheri about Bronchial Thermoplasty, contact Senior Public Relations Specialist Erica Carlson at

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