Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy: A GPS for the lungs

Minimally invasive approach for lung cancer diagnosis

When it comes to the topic of lung cancer, the statistics are sobering.

Michael Meska, regional director of respiratory therapy for Franciscan Alliance’s Northern Indiana Region, says, “We do a very good job across the country with early identification of prostate, colon and breast cancers. But those three cancers combined don’t kill as many people as lung cancer in any given year.”

However, there’s great news for Northwest Indiana residents: Franciscan St. Margaret Health recently began using an innovative, minimally invasive new technology called Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy (ENB) to diagnose lung cancers earlier.

“Five-year survival rates for lung cancer are pretty abysmal—about 16 percent,” Meska says. “But if you catch a lung cancer early in its development at a stage one or two, your five-year survival rate catapults to the low 90s.The ENB technology helps better identify these cancers when they’re miniscule.”

This groundbreaking outcome is due to the remarkable ability of ENB technology to access lung lesions that are located beyond the reach of traditional bronchoscopes. According to pulmonary medicine specialist Don H. Dumont, M.D., “ENB increases our diagnostic reach beyond what we can do with a bronchoscope. With conventional methods, we can only see three or four divisions of airways to get a biopsy directly. Once you get beyond that, it’s very difficult. But ENB allows us to navigate farther away.

“Without it, we would have to use a needle to go into the lung, which has its risks, or even surgery, which has even more risks,” Dumont says. “But ENB is an outpatient procedure and the only recovery time needed is due to the anesthesia.”

The superDimension iLogic System allows physicians to gain access to distal lung lesions once a tumor is identified with a CT scan. Meska says, “A low-dose CT scan is the portal of entry for patients to be identified. It gives the initial glimpse of a lesion, then the ENB software identifies where it is. ENB is like GPS for the lungs.”

Using the patient’s CT scan, the computer software creates a virtual 3-D “road map” through the deep passages of the lungs. Guided by this map, the doctor simply inserts a catheter-like tool through the patient’s airway, which is visualized on a computer monitor as the tool travels through the complex divisions of the lungs. Once it reaches the target tumor, the physician can harvest tissue for a biopsy, track changes in the tumor, or place a marker that will pinpoint the tumor’s exact location for subsequent radiation treatments—all without the need for higher-risk procedures.

The impact on lung cancer patients in Northwest Indiana is of tremendous significance, according to Dr. Dumont, who says, “By giving us the opportunity to make a diagnosis at an earlier stage, ENB has been a real game-changer in terms of how we approach lung cancer and lung cancer risks.”

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