Yale First in State to Offer ‘Shape Sensing’ Robotic Bronchoscopy

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the US, but it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. This is because most lung cancers are diagnosed at late stages of the disease, making early detection a key to survival.

Lung cancer screening is one way to detect cancer early. A new method for early detection of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies is another. Yale pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons will be the first Connecticut physicians to perform next-generation bronchoscopy — robotic bronchoscopy with novel shape-recognition technology — that allows them to visualize and biopsy distant portions of the lungs 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 starts in October 2022. The cutting-edge technology “features greater dexterity, range, vision and shape-recognition technology that offers greater stability,” said Sanket Thakore, MD, of the interventional pulmonary medicine 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, from the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine (Yale-PCCSM) in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. They are members of the Thoracic Oncology Program, which cares for more than 40% of Connecticut’s lung cancer patients while attracting patients from New England and beyond. The robotic bronchoscopy program is a joint program of Yale Interventional Pulmonology and Yale Thoracic Surgery.

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“The goal of this program is to diagnose pulmonary nodules in the periphery of the lungs that we suspect may be cancer. It will help us biopsy and diagnose these nodules with improved accuracy and confidence,” Thakore said.

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A normal bronchoscope has a camera at one end. The other end is held by a doctor who performs the procedure manually. In a robotic bronchoscopy, the endoscope is attached to a robotic arm that the doctor operates from a console.

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The Yale doctors will use the robotic bronchoscopy at the same time as another procedure called EBUS — endobronchial ultrasound, a biopsy of the lymph node. “This not only helps us with the diagnosis, but also with the staging of the lung cancer,” said Thakore. “Performing robotic bronchoscopy and EBUS under individual anesthesia will help reduce unnecessary waiting and anxiety that patients traditionally experience,” he added.

The Department of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine is one of the eleven departments within YSM’s Department of Internal Medicine. To learn more about Yale PCCSM, Visit the PCCSM websiteor keep following them Facebook and Twitter.

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