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How does bronchial thermoplasty work?

Of the 140,000 asthma patients in Singapore, about 5 per cent have a severe form of the chronic inflammatory disease.

For this group, regular treatment in the form of inhalers or steroids is ineffective.

That is where bronchial thermoplasty comes in.

The one-off operation is specifically for patients above 18 as a complement to their regular treatment.

No further procedures are necessary, but patients must continue their regular medication to reduce inflammation.

APPROVED BY MOH

Widely used in the US and Europe, bronchial thermoplasty was approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2012.

So far, 10 people have undergone the treatment, said Associate Professor Lee Pyng, who is currently the only doctor here who can administer the treatment at the National University Hospital.

The treatment works by "burning" off the excess smooth muscle tissue that constrict the airway to the lungs, allowing more air to flow through.

The procedure consists of three operations spread over six weeks and costs about $20,000.