Innovative technology at Wellstar is offering patients a minimally invasive option for lung biopsies, reducing complications and helping expedite lung cancer treatment.
The Ion system is a robotic-assisted platform for performing lung biopsies. If a lung cancer screening or any other CT scan shows a suspicious nodule, providers will need to perform a biopsy to determine if the patient has lung cancer and how to proceed with care.
“Those nodules may not be cancer, but in certain situations we still need to know what it is,” said Wellstar Pulmonologist Dr. Timothy Udoji. “The Ion technology helps us biopsy those nodules to get an answer so that additional workup can be done immediately. If it is cancer, we want to catch it at an early stage.”
The system uses a three-dimensional spatial recognition technology that helps guide a catheter down the airway, deep into the lung, all the way to small nodules where biopsies can be performed. The robotic catheter maintains its shape and stability throughout the biopsy process significantly improving diagnostic yield compared to other modalities.
“The better the image and the more certainty we have of the spatial location of the catheter, the better we can avoid complications by making sure we are not too close to a blood vessel or the edge of the lung,” said Wellstar Thoracic Surgeon Dr. Daniel Fortes.
During the biopsy, providers can also use the Ion system to mark an area in the lung, making it easier to find later during surgery.
“If something is very small and hard to find in surgery, Ion can be used to mark that area with dye, or contrast, that allows us to find it in surgery,” Dr. Fortes said. “With this technology added to the surgical robotic system in the operating room, we can better identify those lesions and remove smaller portions of lung, also called segments.”
Technology to help provide peace of mind
The Ion system also has further reach than previous technologies and is able to more easily biopsy nodules in the peripheral areas of the lung. For many cancer patients, this will allow them to initiate care earlier and improve their outcomes, as well as give them peace of mind during the treatment process.
“Mental health impacts physical health. We are able to confidently biopsy and identify these nodules and that means a lot for our patients,” Dr. Udoji said. “Now, with this new technology we are able to get a biopsy done much earlier which has huge outcome implications for malignant nodules.”
At Wellstar, cancer care is tailored for each patient. In the Wellstar STAT Clinic for Lung Cancer, patients meet with multiple specialists at once to discuss their care options and create a personalized treatment plan. Specialists in the STAT Clinics, which are located at Wellstar Cobb, Douglas, Kennestone Regional, North Fulton medical centers, work with patients to determine the optimal course of treatment and will talk with patients and families about biopsy options, including the Ion system. The STAT Clinics give patients the opportunity to have their diagnoses managed right away, and literature shows that the clinics’ diagnostic and treatment model improves outcomes for patients.
The Ion system is currently in use at Wellstar Kennestone Regional Medical Center. Learn more about lung cancer care at wellstar.org/lungcancer.