• Navigational Bronchoscopy

  • Bronchoscopy is a pulmonary procedure where physicians examine the major air passages of the lungs through a thin, lighted tube called a bronchoscope. Doctors use bronchoscopies to evaluate the lungs and collect small tissue samples – called biopsies – to diagnose lung disease and lung cancer.

    Traditional bronchoscopy can’t reliably reach deep into the lungs, where nearly two-thirds of all lung lesions are found. And using more invasive surgical procedures to make a diagnosis can increase the risk for complications.

    To provide a safer, less invasive alternative, Holston Valley Medical Center and Bristol Regional Medical Center offer electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy.

    What is electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy?

    Abnormal findings or lesions in the lung may be caused by infection, inflammation or cancer. However, if they’re found on a traditional X-ray, CT or PET scan, doctors can’t always diagnose which of those three they are.

    Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy uses GPS-like technology to create a three-dimensional virtual roadmap of the lungs. This map helps physicians guide a set of catheters through the lungs’ most complex airways.

    It is a minimally invasive technology that allows our physicians to diagnose and prepare to treat lesions using a single procedure.

    At Holston Valley and Bristol Regional, electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy is performed in an outpatient setting – most patients return home the same day as the procedure.

    What are the benefits of electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy?

    By solely using traditional diagnostic techniques, nearly 75 percent of lung cancers go undetected until they reach Stage III or Stage IV.

    With electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy, we’re able to detect lung cancer and lung disease earlier, even before symptoms are evident.

    This proactive diagnosis improves cure and survival rates and also enhances patients’ treatment options.

    And electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy is safer than traditional bronchoscopy. It’s also an option for patients who suffer from poor lung function or have had cancer surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

    How does electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy work?

    During electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy, software uses X-ray, CT or PET scan images to create a three-dimensional image of the lungs, and the physician maps a route to the lesions.

    While the patient is anesthetized, a bronchoscope with catheters is placed in his or her mouth and moved down into the airways of the lungs. To reach the lesions, the catheters feature 360-degree steering, as well as an electromagnetic sensor that allows the physician to track their exact location.

    Once the target lesions are reached, tiny surgical instruments are passed through the bronchoscope to collect a biopsy from the lesion for testing and diagnosis.

    If testing and diagnosis reveal cancerous cells, the doctor then makes a referral for treatment. The Wellmont Cancer Institute offers the region’s most comprehensive radiation oncology and radiosurgery services, as well as a leading clinical trial program.

    Recovery and risks

    After the electromagnetic navigation procedure, patients are observed until they are awake enough to return home. The most common risk is pneumothorax – or collapsed lung – which occurs at a rate comparable to that of traditional bronchoscopy.*

    *National Cancer Institute. US National Institutes of Health. National Lung Screening Trial, 2005 Update.

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