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Robotic bronchoscopy helps physicians diagnose lung cancer more safely, accurately and earlier 

Yale New Haven Hospital is the first in Connecticut to offer robotic bronchoscopy with shape-sensing technology, which allows doctors to see even small nodules in areas of the lung that are extremely difficult or risky to reach.

Since launching the Ion™ robotic bronchoscopy system last October, interventional pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons at YNHH and Yale Medicine have established a cutting-edge robotic bronchoscopy program. 

During a regular bronchoscopy, the doctor inserts a scope – a thin tube with a camera on one end – into the mouth or nose and moves it down the trachea and into the lungs. With robotic bronchoscopy, the scope is attached to a robotic arm, which the doctor operates from a console.

“The robotic bronchoscopy provides more stability and allows for more minute adjustments,” said Sanket Thakore, MD, who specializes in interventional pulmonary with Yale Medicine. “That means we can safely reach nodules that are close to the heart or major blood vessels.”

Interventional pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons have also enhanced the precision and safety of taking biopsies of hard-to-reach lung nodules. They integrate robotic bronchoscopy with intraoperative portable cone beam CT scanning – a type of scan taken during the procedure to help pinpoint the location of the nodule.

In addition, during the same procedure, doctors can biopsy the adjacent lymph nodes using EBUS – endobronchial ultrasound – to determine the stage of the cancer. This streamlined approach eliminates the need for two different procedures, which often delays the start of treatment by weeks. 

“Our goals are to have an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible, reduce the wait time, and alleviate the anxiety that patients traditionally experience,” Dr. Thakore said.  “We can also begin treatment sooner.”

The robotic bronchoscopy and EBUS are performed on an outpatient basis. Lean more about robotic bronchoscopy.