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Leading-Edge Technology for Better Lung Disease Outcomes

Earlier Detection, Advanced Treatment

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. In fact, nearly 25% of people who die from cancer in the U.S. die from lung cancer. Additionally, more than 16 million Americans have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the third leading cause of death by disease in the U.S.

Northwestern Medicine continues to be committed to taking care of your lung health. To better treat patients with malignant and benign lung disease, Northwestern Medicine uses state-of-the-art technology: the Auris Health Monarch™ Platform and the Intuitive Surgical Ion™ robotic bronchoscopy systems for earlier diagnosis of lung nodules, or spots on the lung that can be cancerous, as well as the Zephyr® Endobronchial Valve for treatment of emphysema.

These technologies can make a life-or-death difference for patients with lung cancer, and help patients with debilitating emphysema, a severe form of COPD, enjoy a better quality of life. All three technologies provide Northwestern Medicine’s multidisciplinary team of providers with the tools to conduct minimally invasive procedures that expedite and enhance treatment for patients living with lung disease.

Better Lung Biopsies

The Monarch and Ion systems are utilized for safer, more precise and minimally invasive biopsies of suspicious nodules almost anywhere in the lung. Produced by different manufacturers, both systems allow physicians to collect tissue and reach deep parts of the lungs that are inaccessible by standard biopsy.

While most lung cancer cases are diagnosed at later stages, these robotic technologies may assist in detect-lung-cancer-early, when it is easier to treat. 

“The Monarch and Ion platforms have really changed the landscape for diagnosis of lung nodules that surgeons can now get to,” says Benjamin J. Seides, MD, MPH, director of Interventional Pulmonology at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “With the goal of diagnosing cancer at an earlier stage, we are now able to get the most information in the least invasive way and the shortest period of time, while also maximizing patient safety and convenience.”

First in Illinois

Ion is the latest addition of robotic technology for lung disease at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Northwestern Medicine is the first pulmonary program in Illinois to offer this robotic-assisted bronchoscopy platform.

“We are one of the few health systems to have this technology, allowing us to more easily find and remove lung nodules for an earlier cancer diagnosis,” says Northwestern Medicine Thoracic Surgeon Samuel S. Kim, MD, who is also a member of Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

While Monarch, available at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, uses a flexible robotic endoscope through the nose or mouth to reach the outer edges of the lung, the Ion platform features an ultra-thin and maneuverable robotic catheter. Moving 180 degrees in all directions, the Ion’s flexible biopsy needle can be navigated through narrow, twisting airways to isolate lung nodules in any segment of the lung.

Dr. Kim explains that through the use of fluorescent and carbon dye, the Ion makes it easier to locate the nodule during surgery and remove tissue only from the affected portion of the lung, preserving the surrounding healthy tissue. Within a lung cancer screening program, robotic-assisted bronchoscopy offers increased accuracy and a faster diagnosis, translating to an improved patient experience, convenience and health outcomes.

Better Lung Function for Better Quality of Life

A third advanced technology for lung disease care at Northwestern Medicine, Zephyr Valve is improving quality of life for many patients with emphysema. With this technology, tiny valves are inserted into the airways to block off diseased parts of the lungs. These valves decrease hyperinflation, enabling healthier parts of the lung to take in more air.

This procedure gives patients the ability to breathe easier, with decreased shortness of breath, and to perform activities previously not possible. Prior to this procedure, the only emphysema treatment options beyond inhaler therapy were highly invasive and carried significant risk.

The Bottom Line

Many conditions can prevent optimal lung function, from lung cancer and COPD to asthma and respiratory tract infections like pneumonia. For patients with lung disease, these three leading-edge technologies in use at Northwestern Medicine can lead to better outcomes and better quality of life.

If you suspect you are at higher risk for lung cancer or have received abnormal CT scan results, discuss screening options with your physician. If you have emphysema, talk to your physician about treatment options with the Zephyr Valve.