New FDA-approved treatment helps COPD, emphysema patients

The procedure involves placing valves in a patient’s lungs.
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A new FDA-approved procedure performed at Prisma Health is helping certain patients diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and emphysema to breathe better.

The procedure involves placing valves in a patient’s lungs that can be moved or removed if needed.

According to the CDC, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

Doctors say breathing disorders are more common in southern states because of higher rates of tobacco use, but the diseases can also be caused by genetics.

Dr. Rohan Arya, a pulmonologist at Prisma Health, says he’s seen promising results in the six or seven patients he’s treated so far.

“From the first day, they’ve started feeling better and I usually have them follow up in clinic with me about a week later to make sure they’re okay,” said Arya. “At that point, they were loving life, and most of them have seen me again a month after the first follow up and they were all doing things that they haven’t been doing in many, many years.”

Cheryl Jackson, a patient of Arya, has been suffering from COPD and emphysema since 1998. She says it’s become harder for her to even walk to her kitchen without stopping multiple times to catch her breath.

COPD and emphysema show symptoms such as persistent cough and shortness of breath, and the CDC reports those symptoms can worsen over time. More severe symptoms can include confusion and memory loss.

Jackson says the procedure was mostly painless and it has allowed her to start working in her yard again—something she hadn’t been able to do in years.

She says even her family was surprised by her quick recovery.

“I could go from that room all the way to the other end of the kitchen without stopping to get air and it was good!” Jackson said.

Dr. Bill Tillis, another pulmonologist at Prisma Health, says the procedure is a good alternative to the more invasive surgery previously offered for emphysema patients, which involves removing pieces of the lungs.

“The other treatments have limited effect, but this truly does make them feel better and they’re able to do the things they want to do,” Tillis explained.

Only certain emphysema patients are eligible for the procedure. Also, eligible patients must pass heart, blood, and breathing tests to qualify. Pulmonologists at Prisma Health say people who suffer from breathing issues should ask their doctor if they would be a good candidate for the procedure.

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