AUSTIN, Texas—St. David’s South Austin Medical Center recently became the first in Central Texas to use a new robotic system, along with advanced imaging technology, to enable physicians to obtain tissue samples from deep within the lung—an area that can be challenging to access with existing technology.

Physicians often recommend a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis after a mass or nodule is discovered on the lung. Biopsies involve obtaining a tissue sample from the suspicious area, then examining the cells under a microscope to determine if cancer or another disease is present. There are a number of ways to obtain tissue for biopsy. The approach taken usually depends on the size of the nodule, the location within the lung and a person’s overall health.

“Because the lung is often a difficult place to get biopsies, this new, robotic-assisted approach represents an advancement in the existing approaches to lung biopsies,” William Bartek, M.D., medical director of pulmonology at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, said. “This system, along with advanced imaging technology, provides us with better access and increased precision, which can produce quicker results and may help avoid additional biopsies.”

The Ion Endoluminal System features an ultra-thin, ultra-maneuverable catheter that allows navigation far into the peripheral lung. During a bronchoscopy procedure, physicians use the controller to navigate to the target area. The catheter can move 180 degrees in any direction to pass through small, difficult-to-navigate airways and around tight bends to reach all portions of the lung. The peripheral vision probe also provides direct vision during navigation. Once the catheter reaches the pulmonary nodule, it locks into place, and the flexible biopsy needle passes through the catheter. The needle is then deployed into the target location to get a sample of the lung tissue for further analysis.