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Yale First in State to Offer 'Shape Sensing' Robotic Bronchoscopy

September 19, 2022
by Jane E. Dee

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S., but it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The reason is that most lung cancers are diagnosed in late stages of the disease, making early detection a key to survival.

Lung cancer screening is one way to catch 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 a next-generation bronchoscopy -- robotic-assisted bronchoscopy with novel shape-sensing technology – that will allow them to visualize and biopsy remote 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 state-of-the-art technology “has greater dexterity, reach, vision, and shape-sensing technology that offers greater stability,” said Sanket Thakore, MD, of the interventional pulmonary team whose members will be among the physicians performing the new procedure. The other interventional pulmonologists are Kyle Bramley, MD, and Erin DeBiasi, MD, and Christopher Morton, MD, of the section of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine (Yale-PCCSM) in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. They are members of the Thoracic Oncology Program, which takes care of more than 40% of lung cancer patients in Connecticut, while attracting patients from New England and beyond. The robotic-assisted bronchoscopy program is a joint program between Yale Interventional Pulmonology and Yale Thoracic Surgery.

“The goal of this program is to diagnose lung nodules in the periphery of the lung, which we suspect could be cancer. It will help us to biopsy and diagnose those 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.

The Yale doctors will be using robotic bronchoscopy concurrently with another procedure called EBUS - endobronchial ultrasound, a biopsy of the lymph node. “This helps us not just with the diagnosis, but with the staging of the lung cancer,” Thakore said. “Performing robotic-assisted bronchoscopy and EBUS under single anesthesia will help reduce the unnecessary waiting times and anxiety that patients traditionally experience,” he added.

The Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine is one of the eleven sections within YSM's Department of Internal Medicine. To learn more about Yale-PCCSM, visit PCCSM's website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Submitted by Jane E. Dee on September 19, 2022