Which articles do and don't get extensive media coverage has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but never more so than this one. Everyone from my sister to my secretary have e-mailed me about this.
I think it is mostly hype. So far, the results of 16 patients treated with bronchial thermoplasty (BT) have been published. That trail had no control group and showed modest improvements in their asthma: days without symptoms increased from about 1/2 to 3/4 of days. The peak flow (how fast patients could blog air out) also improved somewhat. But without a control group we can't know how untreated patients would have done. In addition, the patients in this study had relatively mild asthma.
I might considering this at least a promising avenue of investigation if the intervention was innocuous, but it isn't. The procedure involves putting a flexible tube down into the airway and burning the tissue to reduce the amount of muscle. And once isn't enough; patients get multiple bronchs so that enough muscle can be burned.
Most patients had side effects such as cough or wheeze. In addition follow up was only 2 years, so long term negative effects of the procedure may not yet be evident.
I don't know about you but I'd rather just take my Flovent or Advair twice a day.
In fairness, the article also mentions data from a larger controlled study was presented at the ATS (American Thoracic Society) meeting this week in San Diego, and they are recruiting for an even bigger study.
I'm very skeptical this will be useful. I suspect side effects will be intolerable in the really severe asthmatics who need the treatment most. For milder asthmatics, we already have safe, effective therapies available