Robotic technology first utilized in Mary Lanning Healthcare’s Surgical Services Department in June is making lung cancer diagnosis a whole lot easier to swallow for area patients.
The Monarch Platform system of Auris Health is a less invasive alternative procedure that allows doctors to biopsy small abnormalities in the lungs that could be cancers while the patient is sedated. And unlike the bronchoscope procedure performed by a radiologist via a computed tomography (CT) scan, this new method of treatment enables deeper exploratory penetration into the lung to access small airways that were previously unreachable while greatly reducing the risk of collapsing the lung during the process.
This new technology — the first Monarch to be used in Nebraska — is being called a game changer by doctors for those facing a lung cancer diagnosis.
Dr. Matthew Stritt, a pulmonologist with Hastings Pulmonary & Sleep Clinic, has teamed with the MLH Respiratory Therapy to offer robotic bronchoscopy treatment at MLH. Used to view inside the lungs and obtain tissue samples for biopsy, the robot provides an earlier, more accurate diagnosis of small, hard-to-reach lung nodules.
Stritt said the new equipment primarily is for use in lung cancer diagnosis but also for obtaining samples and diagnosing inflammatory lung disease.
Utilizing a controller that functions in much the same way as an X-Box controller, the robot gives physicians more precise maneuverability during procedures while enabling continuous bronchoscope vision throughout the procedure, providing computer-based navigation imaging based on 3-D models of the patient’s lung anatomy.
These advantages raise the bar on what had been considered the gold standard of treatment to a whole new level, Stritt said.
“It’s got big advantages,” he said of the robotic technology. “The more precise optics and stability are light years ahead of what we had before. The controller is remarkably stable and holds perfectly still so that I am able to move millimeters at a time, something that’s hard to do by hand.
“The robot allows us to be much more precise and be able to go much deeper into the lung and still have visualization. It allows for advanced maneuverability and can reach areas of the lung that were previously unattainable.”
The technology incorporates the latest advances in robotics, software, data science and endoscopy (the use of small cameras and tools to enter the body through its natural openings). Mary Lanning Healthcare is among the first hospitals in the United States to utilize the platform, which was recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“We’re the only institution in this area through Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that has this robot,” Stritt said. “It’s exciting.”
Sheri Trindle, MLH director of cardiopulmonary services, said the preciseness of the new equipment will give doctors the ability to spot potential areas of concern that previously would have been impossible to detect.
“Before, the doctor would be blind to get to the lesion,” Trindle said. “The robotic control helps get that lesion tested with improved reach and control.
“We’re super excited to be able to bring this kind of technology to the community. Our therapists have gone offsite for training to make sure they are able to assist and meet the needs of technology for the pulmonologist. It’s a step above where we were before, and we really feel it will help us get those diagnoses earlier, which is super important in lung cancer.”