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East of England Respiratory Programme

NICE start consultation on non-drug treatment for severe asthma

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NICE start consultation on non-drug treatment for severe asthma

NICE have launched a consultation on draft guidance for the use of Bronchial Thermoplasty for the treatment of severe asthma. The consultation closes on 19 August 2011.

Bronchial thermoplasty uses a catheter with a radio-frequency emitter to heat specific sections of the bronchi. The aim is to reduce the amount of excessive muscle in the airway, and limit its ability to contract and narrow the airway, in patients with severe asthma.

The draft guidance from he National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that this treatment could help reduce the symptoms of severe asthma, if further research supports its long term safety and efficacy.

> Read the draft NICE guidance (from the NICE website)

NICE say that the latest evidence and expert opinion indicate that bronchial thermoplasty can lead to fewer asthma attacks and people having to take fewer medications or days off work due to illness. However people can also experience worsened symptoms in the short term and the evidence is not yet available to indicate whether the procedure improves lung function beyond the trial period or whether there are long term health concerns associated with it.

The draft guidance provisionally advises respiratory doctors considering the procedure to:

  • explain the uncertainties and risks to their patients before obtaining their consent,
  • to inform their clinical governance leads (usually the hospital's medical director),
  • to audit the clinical outcomes so that more can be learnt about it in the longer term.
The consultation period will end on Thursday 19 August.


NICE then hopes to publish its final guidance in November.

The final guidance will outline what NHS healthcare professionals should do if they wish to consider bronchial thermoplasty as a treatment option, based on its safety and efficacy only. (Note: Cost is not considered in this type of NICE guidance - NHS bodies decide locally whether it should be funded.)


> Read the NICE overview of Bronchial Thermoplasty


> Read the NICE consultation document


> Read NICE's public press release on Bronchial Thermoplasty