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Scripps robotic bronchoscopy
A physician uses a video-game style controller to remotely guide a scope into a patient's lungs. Photo courtesy of Scripps Health
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Scripps Encinitas adds innovative tools to improve lung diagnoses

ENCINITAS – Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas recently introduced an innovative robotic technology with significant promise for patients requiring biopsies of lung nodules to diagnose respiratory issues, including lung cancer.

The goal of the new robotic bronchoscopy platform is to give patients an earlier, more accurate and less invasive approach to the diagnosis of lung diseases, greatly improving patient survival rates.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and early diagnosis is an important factor in patient outcomes.

“We view robotic bronchoscopy, in conjunction with intraoperative CT imaging, as a quantum leap forward for our ability to deliver early and less invasive diagnoses for our patients,” said Dr. Samir Makani, director of interventional pulmonary medicine at Scripps. “It gives us two new and very important capabilities – first, the ability to reach into the most challenging parts of the lungs to get to nodules we couldn’t reach before. And second, to see the precise location of the nodule and our instruments throughout the entire procedure in real-time.”

Bronchoscopy is a procedure frequently used to confirm or rule out lung cancer and explores a variety of respiratory issues, including breathing problems, infections, lesions and nodules. The only way to confirm if a nodule is cancerous is to obtain and examine a small piece of tissue.

The current conventional approach to bronchoscopy involves the physician advancing a scope by hand into the patient’s lungs, which offers less control and stability.

With robotic bronchoscopy, the physician remotely guides the scope into the patient’s lungs using a video game-style controller, directing it through twists and turns of the patient’s airways.

Scripps Health robotic bronchoscopy
Dr. Samir Makani utilizes new robotic bronchoscopy technology to more precisely remove biopsy samples from the lungs. Photo courtesy of Scripps Health

The technology also offers a built-in navigation system that shows doctors the exact location of the scope and nodules in real-time throughout the procedure. The technology was recently cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and integrates the latest advancements in robotics, software, data science and endoscopy, according to Scripps.

“Conventional navigational bronchoscopy can help the doctor get to the general neighborhood of the nodule, but robotic bronchoscopy, in conjunction with intraoperative CT imaging, takes the doctor all the way to the nodule’s front doorstep with a higher degree of accuracy,” said Dr. Scott Eisman, physician chief operating executive at Scripps Encinitas. “Having the confidence of knowing we are taking the sample from the precise spot we want is absolutely critical to our ability to give patients the answers they need.”

Scripps Encinitas is the only hospital west of the Mississippi performing bronchoscopy with the combination of a robotic bronchoscopy system and a portable CT scanner.

Robotic bronchoscopy is available to patients as part of the Scripps MD Anderson partnership and through the Scripps Encinitas interventional pulmonary medicine program. Additionally, the technology will be a part of the new Lusardi Pulmonary Institute located in Lusardi Tower, a project funded in part by a $25 million donation from Rancho Santa Fe philanthropists Warner and Debbie Lusardi.

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