July 7, 2008

New Technology Gives Doctors ‘Window’ Into Far Reaches of Complex Lung Structures

DALLAS, July 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Pulmonologists at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas have begun using a new type of bronchoscopy that utilizes global positioning-like technology to generate 3-dimensional images of the far reaches of complex lung structures. This electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy is expected to help pulmonologists better diagnose lung cancer, pneumonia and various pulmonary infections.

Death rates from these lung conditions continue to increase, according to the American Lung Association, as morality rates from other leading causes of death, including cancer and heart disease, are falling.

"This new technology allows us to see safely and clearly into those deep regions of the lungs and diagnose exactly what's causing the respiratory problem," said Presbyterian pulmonologist Dr. Suneel Kumar.

Chest X-rays can show peripheral lesions in the lungs of patients, but only about half of those are accessible by traditional bronchoscopy, which involves inserting a flexible catheter tube down the patient's throat and into the lungs. Up to now, most lesions beyond the reach of a standard bronchoscopy were further investigated with more invasive procedures that had side effects some patients could not tolerate.

"This new technology allows us to more aggressively investigate the origin of disease in the lungs with less impact on the patient," said Presbyterian pulmonologist Dr. Howard Mintz. "We're able to more accurately diagnose the condition of the lung and, in turn, better care for the patient."

The new system uses a steerable catheter that can also access and biopsy lymph nodes that are near the bronchial tree or trachea.

"This technology has the potential to help us diagnose complex problems of the lungs and thoracic cavity with a relatively simple procedure," said pulmonologist Dr. Gary Weinstein, Presbyterian's chief of critical care medicine. "It's an example of technology truly improving clinical care and reducing impact on the patient."

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for improving survival rates in malignant lung disease. A recent study determined that lung lesions diagnosed early resulted in a survival rate of 88 percent at 10 years. Lung cancer patients diagnosed at Stage III or IV have survival rates around 15 percent at 5 years.

"There's a big need for a reliable diagnostic tool that's minimally invasive for patients but still provides quality analysis of tissue deep in the lungs," Dr. Kumar said. "This system is a major step in that direction."

Texas Health Resources

CONTACT: Stephen O'Brien of Texas Health Resources, +1-214-345-4960,[email protected]

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