Cooper University Health Care Offers New Robotic-Assisted Minimally Invasive Option for Lung Cancer Diagnosis

On June 9, 2022, the Interventional Pulmonary team at Cooper University Health Care performed its first three cases using the Ion endoluminal system by Intuitive Surgical, a new minimally invasive platform that allows physicians to biopsy hard-to-reach lung tumors, potentially resulting in the earlier diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Cooper is the first health system in southern New Jersey to use this new system, which has advanced maneuverability and navigation through the narrow airways of the lung.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer this novel technology to our patients,” said Wissam Abouzgheib, MD, Division Head of Pulmonary Medicine, who specializes in high-risk lung cancer screening.  “We are hopeful that this device will help us identify and biopsy lung nodules safely and effectively much earlier, before cancers have spread, for more optimal outcomes.”

Lung cancer is among the leading causes of cancer-related death among men and women, and tends to spread quickly. It does not show any symptoms unless it is very advanced, and can silently spread to virtually any part of the body. This makes early screening and treatment critical. When diagnosed at the earliest stage, the average 5-year survival rate is more than 90%. Early stage diagnosis has often been difficult due to the complicated anatomy of the lung.

Ion is designed to address a challenging aspect of lung biopsy by enabling physicians to obtain tissue samples from deep within the lung. The Ion system features an ultra-thin, ultra-maneuverable catheter that allows navigation far into the peripheral lung. During bronchoscopy with Ion, the physician uses the controller to navigate a thin catheter down the patient’s trachea and into the peripheral lung. The augmented fluoroscopy provide real-time imaging of the airway throughout the procedure, Dr. Abouzgheib explained.

Once the nodule to be biopsied is reached, the clinical team uses the catheter to obtain the biopsy, which is then sent to the laboratory for analysis. Patients are able to go home the day of the procedure. Depending on the results of the biopsy analysis, patients may then be immediately referred for surgery or further medical care.

“By using the robotic-assisted bronchoscopy platform, we can help reduce the anxiety and unnecessary waiting times that patients traditionally experience,” Dr. Abouzgheib said.