- Published: Friday, 11 December 2015 16:25
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San José, Costa Rica. December, 2015.
Lung cancer is the type of cancer that causes the higher number of deaths worldwide. The opportunity for the patient to survive depends on an early diagnosis, when it is still possible to eliminate the tumor.
The technological advances in detailed imaging studies such as the CAT scan, have allowed the identification of small lesions in the lungs called nodes. These nodes may sometimes correspond to early lung cancer, which merits a quick and aggressive treatment, although other times they are benign lesions, which are not cancer, and their treatment, should it be required, is different.
According to Dr. José Rafael Rojas Solano, Interventionist Pneumologist Physician of the Clínica Bíblica Hospital, “A bronchoscopy is a not very invasive method, however the current bronchoscopes have some limitations since they are not able to reach the deeper or peripheral regions of the lungs, which is where many times the suspicious nodes are located. Therefore, new diagnostic methods are required, which should be of high performance and at the same time safe for the patients.”
Pilot study: Robotics have been employed for several years in medicine, mainly in some surgical procedures in thorax and abdomen.
Dr. Rojas is one of the chief researchers who has been in charge of performing test son humans with a robot designed to perform bronchoscopies.
“The pilot study we carried out was to test for the first time on humans, a robot designed to perform diagnostic bronchoscopies on patients with lesions in the bronchi or lungs suspicious of cancer, with the intention of showing that it can be performed safely, and that eventually it may be assessed if it is a technique that can overcome the current limitations of conventional bronchoscopies.”
The robot is not autonomous; it is handled by a trained specialist who guides it without having a direct manual control of the instrument.
The study recruited 15 patients with lesions suspicious of lung cancer. A robotic bronchoscopy was performed on all of them under totally controlled conditions, at the Clinica Biblica Hospital, with the participation of several specialists. The logistics were managed by the Instituto Costarricense de Investigaciones Clínicas (ICIC) (Costa Rican Institute of Clinical Research).
- It was possible to navigate with the bronchoscope inside the airways of all of the patients without any adverse effects related with the use of the robotic equipment.
- Out of the 15 patients, 9 patients were in the end diagnosed with cancer.
- With the robotic bronchoscope it was possible to obtain biopsy material for diagnosis in 8 of them (89% performance).
- The patient who was not diagnosed this way required later diagnosis surgery.
- Out of the 6 patients with benign lesions, the biopsy found alterations suggestive of benignity in 5 of them.
The robotic bronchoscopy is a new technique that would allow to diagnose more accurately lesions suspicious of cancer in the central bronchi and in the more peripheral regions of the lungs.
“Thanks to the team work of an important group of specialists, as well as the support of the patients and the ICIC, we showed that this is a safe technology for the patient and without doubt, this study constitutes the first step of very promising technology in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer in the future.”
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