Healthwise: New Lung Procedure

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

May 30, 2012

With lung cancer rates climbing, doctors are constantly looking for ways to curb rising statistics. Now there’s new technology in Charlottesville to help patients with early detection and treatment.

Electro-Magnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy is a new lung procedure that’s saving lives in Charlottesville.

“It uses a very small catheter that has a steerable guide on the end of it and it helps us navigate out through these very small airways. We can find small lung lesions or big lung lesions for that matter,” said Dr. Christopher Willms, a Thoracic Surgeon at Martha Jefferson Hospital (MJH).

Using the bronchoscope and screen, Dr. Willms and his team are on the lookout for any abnormalities in a patient’s lungs. Before this new technology was available, patients often had to undergo a more invasive procedure or watch for changes in lung lesions through CAT scans over a period of time.

“Often times we just watch it and we may repeat a CT scan in a few months, we may continue to follow it. Previously, we just kept checking it for maybe a couple of years to see if it’s stable or not,” said Dr. Willms.

When patients come into the operating room for this procedure, some are having it for diagnostic purposes and others for treatment.

“With this new technology, we’ll actually be able to go ahead and biopsy those lesions while they’re still small and still potentially treatable,” said Dr. Willms.

Doctors can also place markers for Radiation Therapy.

“It’s a wonderful new procedure that’s going to allow us to treat early lung cancer and hopefully really make an impact on the ability to cure lung cancer as opposed to what we’ve had up until now,” said Dr. Willms.

The outpatient procedure takes just a couple of hours and patients are asleep during the process. MJH is one of a handful of hospitals in the Commonwealth offering the procedure.

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