Imaging technology helps doctors explore lungs

Navigation bronchoscopy helps doctors reach deep areas of lung

Doctors are working with a new tool to diagnose conditions in the lungs without the need for invasive biopsies.

Called navigation bronchoscopy, a wire thin catheter is threaded through the tiny passages ways in the far reaches of the lung, allowing for pinpoint accuracy by using imaging technology.

"It's a technique where you match someone's CAT scan or computerized tomography pictures with a live procedure," said Dr. Eduardo Oliveira with the Cleveland Clinic Florida.

The minimally invasive procedure requires local anesthesia, but has a lower rate of complications than a needle biopsy, which is the standard approach to investigating lesions.

"The benefit to the patient is that now we are able to reach certain lesions in the lung that before we wouldn't with -- a much high precision level," said Oliveira.

For that reason, surgeons would rather investigate the lung from the inside, but a standard endoscope or bronchoscope can only go so far. But the new devise has tiny catheters similar to those that are used to reach narrow areas of the heart.

"The patient sits on a magnetic board and this magnetic board is able to capture the movement of this little catheter that has a sensor at the tip of it and shows the catheter moving through the lung in the cat scan through this computer generated imaging, so it's basically having a GPS for our procedures," said Oliveira.

The device can also be used to mark an area for a surgical removal later. Markers can be left behind to aid in radiation treatment if it's necessary.

However, a CT guided, needle biopsy may still be needed in some cases.

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