A PIONEERING procedure to help asthma patients breathe easier has been carried out at a UK hospital.
A middle-aged mother from Manchester was the first person to receive the therapy on the NHS after clinical trials showed it could vastly improve symptoms.
The treatment - bronchial thermoplasty - involves using heat to "melt away" muscle blocking air to the lungs.
The patient is sedated and a bronchoscope is threaded through the nose or throat, and into the lungs.
This carries tiny wires with probes that emit radio waves and generate heat.
The muscle is heated to 149F (65C), while surrounding tissue is preserved.
Dr Rob Niven and his team carried out the procedure at the University Hospital of South Manchester on Friday.
He said: "Bronchial thermoplasty is the first non-drug treatment for asthma and it may be a new option for patients with severe asthma who have symptoms despite use of drug therapies.
"The operation went according to plan and our patient has responded well.
"It will be a little while before we are able to say it's been a complete success, but I am cautiously optimistic."
Clinical trials of the treatment have been carried out globally, including in Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, Leicester, Birmingham and London.
Experts believe the procedure is safe and suitable for patients with moderate to severe asthma.
The technique can help cut the number of attacks a person has, and reduce admissions to hospital as well as improving quality of life.
Asthma affects 5.4 million people in the UK and leads to more than 1,100 deaths annually.
Professor Ian Pavord, consultant physician at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and Asthma UK chief medical adviser, said: "This is a well researched procedure that has been through clinical trials which have shown that the treatment can be helpful. In some people with severe asthma, the symptoms of their asthma have been improved and the risk of them having an asthma attack has been reduced, so it is encouraging to see that the technique has now been carried out outside of clinical trials.
"However, this kind of procedure will not work for everyone."