Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, but it is the leading cause of cancer-related death. The reason for this is that most lung cancers are diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease, making early detection a key to survival.
Lung cancer screening is a way to find cancers early. A new procedure designed for the early diagnosis of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies is another. Yale pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons will be the first doctors in Connecticut to perform next-generation bronchoscopy — robot-assisted bronchoscopy with new shape-sensing technology — that will allow them to view and biopsy distant parts of the lung that were previously inaccessible.
Yale New Haven Hospital will be the first hospital in the state to use this new robotic bronchoscopy technology when the program launches in October 2022. The advanced technology “has greater dexterity, reach, vision and detection technology shaped that provides greater stability,” said Sanket Thakore, MD, of the pulmonary intervention team whose members will be among the doctors performing the new procedure. Other interventional pulmonologists are Kyle Bramley, MD, and Erin DeBiasi, MD, and Christopher Morton, MD, of the Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine (Yale-PCCSM) in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Yale School of Medical. They are members of the Thoracic Oncology Program, which supports more than 40 percent of lung cancer patients in Connecticut, while attracting patients from New England and beyond. The robot-assisted bronchoscopy program is a joint program between Yale Interventional Pulmonology and Yale Thoracic Surgery.
“The goal of this program is to diagnose pulmonary nodules at the periphery of the lung, which we suspect to be cancer. This will help us biopsy and diagnose these nodules with improved accuracy and safety,” Thakore said.
A regular bronchoscope has a camera on one end. The other end is held by a doctor who manually performs the procedure. With a robotic bronchoscopy, the endoscope is attached to a robotic arm, which the doctor operates from a console.
Yale doctors will use robotic bronchoscopy alongside another procedure called EBUS – endobronchial ultrasound, a lymph node biopsy. “It not only helps us with diagnosis, but also with lung cancer staging,” Thakore said. “Performing robotic-assisted bronchoscopy and EBUS under single anesthesia will help reduce unnecessary waiting times and anxiety that patients traditionally experience,” he added.
The Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine Section is one of eleven sections within the Department of Internal Medicine at YSM. To learn more about Yale-PCCSM, visit the PCCSM websiteor follow them on Facebook and Twitter.