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Prisma Health introduces new procedure to help patients suffering from COPD, emphysema

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

GREENVILLE, S.C.—Prisma Health has added a new procedure for patients suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and emphysema, two of the leading causes of death in South Carolina, through a minimally invasive procedure that does not require any cutting, incisions, or surgery. This new procedure involves inserting a camera into a patient’s windpipe to reach the damaged lungs. Tiny valves are then inserted and work to optimize the patient’s lung function by improving airflow. This results in less breathlessness and a significantly better quality of life.

Rohan Arya, MD, an interventional pulmonologist in the Midlands, was the first Prisma Health physician to become certified through Pulmonx and complete the Zephyr Endobronchial Valve Procedure. Patient Cheryl Jackson reported immediate relief after being treated by Arya earlier this year. Jackson has been suffering from COPD and emphysema for more than a decade and had limited mobility due to her restricted airflow. Almost immediately following her procedure, she was able to independently walk around her hospital room and down the hallways.

“I am extremely grateful for the Prisma Health team and the procedure because I could barely walk to my car without losing my breath and I was scared to be home alone,” explained Jackson. “The difference I’ve experienced since then is like night and day, and I’ve truly gotten my life back. I am able to enjoy the things I love again, like walking around my yard with my pets and spending more time with family outside. I would recommend this procedure to anyone suffering from COPD.”

Emphysema and COPD are types of lung disease primarily caused by smoking cigarettes.  Emphysema can also be caused by certain genetic diseases or from exposure to pollutants in the air. Patients who suffer from emphysema often have trouble catching their breath, are unable to perform simple tasks, experience chest pain and have a persistent cough.

Patients are put under deep anesthesia for the procedure. Doctors use a bronchoscope to guide the tiny valves through the patient’s mouth into their lungs where they expand to fit the airways. The valves do not need to be replaced but can be repositioned or removed if necessary. Individuals suffering from COPD and emphysema must meet certain criteria before being approved for the procedure.

“This procedure is a natural extension of our services at Prisma Health and one that will have a drastic impact on our patients’ lives. The functional limitations that COPD and emphysema patients experience can cause a lot of fear and anxiety, complicate daily function, and make tasks difficult to complete,” said Arya.

“Prior to this procedure, a patients’ only hope was to undergo surgery to have parts of the lung removed, but this was a very invasive procedure, and the results were not always great. It is very rewarding to now be able to provide these patients with a better quality of life through a safe and minimally invasive technique,” added Arya.

William Tillis, MD, also in the Midlands, and Sean Callahan, MD, in the Upstate, also have been certified and trained to do procedure. Callahan recently completed his first procedure.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually. Its goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit

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