The Impact of Electromagnetic Navigational Bronchoscopy on a Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program

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Background: The Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Clinic has adopted a programmatic, multidisciplinary approach to thoracic tumors, which has involved the implementation of new therapeutic and diagnostic approaches. In 2012 we began using electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy (ENB) as a new diagnostic tool. ENB uses a guidance system that combines CT imaging with magnetic field–guided spatial information to allow tissue sampling or placement of fiducial markers to guide radiation therapy. Methods: The numbers of early-stage (I and II) and late-stage (III and IV) lung cancers were compared before and after the introduction of ENB. We also examined the number of cases of fiducial marker placement using bronchoscopy versus interventional radiology before and after ENB was introduced. Fisher's exact test was used to compare the early- versus late-stage lung cancers found at diagnosis pre- and post-ENB introduction, fiducial marker placements using interventional radiology versus bronchoscopy pre- and post-ENB introduction, and pneumothorax rates. Results: More early-stage cancers were diagnosed after ENB introduction (67 of 286 cases vs 116 of 290; P<.0001). Bronchoscopy was also used more frequently to place fiducial markers post-ENB (53 of 86 pre-ENB vs 105 of 117 post-ENB; P<.0001) and had a lower pneumothorax rate (4% vs 22%) than fiducial placement in interventional radiology (P<.001). Conclusions: The addition of ENB to a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology program may permit the diagnosis of lung cancer at an earlier stage and offers the ability to safely place fiducial markers for therapeutic purposes, such as radiation therapy, within the same procedure, potentially improving safety and decreasing time to treatment.

Correspondence: Craig Brown, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Room 3E-149, 600 Moye Boulevard, Greenville, NC 27834. E-mail:
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