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Is Asthma Controlling Your Life?

Feb 16, 2018

Though May is the “official” national Asthma Awareness Month, asthma is a year-round problem that takes its toll in terms of quality of life. In severe forms, it can even be life-threatening.

Asthma is one of this country’s most common … and most costly … diseases.

Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 14 people has asthma. That means that nearly 40,000 people in Northeast Arkansas have asthma, a disease that causes swelling of the airways, trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest.

We all know someone who has asthma. For some of us, it “is us.”

Overall, more children than adults have asthma … 1 in every 10. And it is the top reason for missed school days.

In adults it is one of the leading causes of missing work and lack of productivity.

While there is no cure for asthma, many people can manage the condition with proper prevention and treatment. Still, there are people whose chronic symptoms simply are not well controlled.

Asthma is not just a nuisance. It can be life-threatening.

Not all news is good news for asthma patients. But for adult asthma patients in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri whose symptoms are not well controlled with medication, there definitely is some good news.

Lung specialists at St. Bernards are helping adult chronic asthma patients by using an FDA-approved treatment called Bronchial Thermoplasty. It is an outpatient treatment that can provide long-lasting control in asthma patients who are 18 years and older.

Designed to reduce the thickness of airway smooth muscle to improve the patient’s breathing capacity by reducing the ability of the airway to constrict airflow, bronchial thermoplasty has changed the lives of patients.

One of those patients is Martha Tolson of Jonesboro. Over time, she went from being able to control her asthma pretty well to a point at which asthma absolutely controlled her life. She had to sit upright to “sleep.” But matters were made worse because she needed to keep her feet above her heart to address swelling in her legs and feet that resulted from the medications she needed to try to help control her symptoms.

She couldn’t walk more than 25 feet without being completely out of breath.

And she spoke in a whisper because she did could not get the breath out to support a stronger voice.

She says bronchial thermoplasty has been a God-send for her. After the series of three treatments, she feels better than she has in years. Her only regret is that she was not able to have this done 10 years ago!!!

St. Bernards is the only medical facility in Arkansas where physicians are actively treating adult asthma patients using this outpatient procedure. Pulmonologists at St. Bernards Clopton Clinic have made life better for at least 17 patients in the last year alone using BT.

It is delivered under sedation in a series of three outpatient treatments about three weeks apart using the Alair™ System. For Martha this has meant fewer medications, fewer doctor visits, fewer hospital visits and a drastically improved quality of life.

Who is a candidate for BT?

• An adult between the ages of 18 and 65.

• A non-smoker for at least the last year.

• An individual who has severe or persistent asthma not well controlled by inhaled corticosteroids or long-acting bronchodilator medicines.

For more information about the St. Bernards bronchial thermoplasty program, click on this link or call the St. Bernards HealthLine at 870-207-7300.


Dr. Mark Sifford is a pulmonologist who sees patients at St. Bernards Clopton Clinic. He earned his Medical Degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and completed a pulmonology residency at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. In addition, he completed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at UAMS. Board certified in internal medicine and sleep medicine, Sifford has been using Bronchial Therapy to help asthma patients for the last two years. He has been on the medical staff at St. Bernards for 25 years.