With electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopies, pulmonologists can more easily identify and treat issues affecting the lungs.
A bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows a pulmonologist to examine a patient’s airways and respiratory system by threading a bronchoscope through the nose or mouth, down the throat, to reach the lungs. Bronchoscopies are performed to identify issues affecting the lungs like a chronic cough caused by bronchitis or asthma, an infection, lung disease, or the presence of a tumor. Often, a bronchoscopy is ordered if abnormalities are detected in an x-ray or CT scan.
Medical advancements have vastly improved the way that bronchoscopies are performed today, and the introduction of electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopies (ENB) has enhanced patient care. An ENB is a minimally invasive procedure that utilizes an extended catheter to identify and biopsy lesions, insert radiotherapy guide markers, and stage lymph nodes.
The guide catheter, which contains a location sensor and is capable of full, 360˚ navigation, is connected to software that establishes a three-dimensional image map of the patient’s lungs on screen.
Using the virtual imagery, a doctor can determine the best course of action. Because of the improved electromagnetic guiding technology, it can also be used as a treatment tool, allowing a pulmonologist to deliver medication to the lungs or remove an object caught in a patient’s airways.
What to Expect from an ENB Procedure
An ENB procedure is completed in two phases. The first, known as the planning phase, connects CT scans of the patient’s chest to software that can digitally construct virtual 3D images of the airways. These images are used to identify target locations and plan for the next phase. In the second phase, known as the navigation phase, the steerable guide catheter is extended to reach the target locations, something a traditional bronchoscope could not do. Once the target or lesion is reached, the location identifying instrumentation is removed so that additional tools can be used to pull samples for testing.
Benefits to Patients
Similar to a car’s GPS system, ENB procedures allow for efficient planning and execution. The updated software makes each procedure highly customizable, thus limiting trial and error. Also, because the guide catheter can reach farther than traditional bronchoscopes, issues affecting the lungs can be identified earlier, meaning patients receive personalized care sooner.