The development of Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS) has revolutionized the diagnosis of lung cancer while significantly improving the patient experience through removing the need for invasive chest surgery, the conventional method of diagnosis.
Why EBUS is Different
Not only does EBUS accurately diagnose lung cancer, it also “stages” the cancer by providing early indications of how far the cancer has spread. This breakthrough enables doctors to quickly develop treatment strategies to either cure the cancer or prolong a patient’s life.
An EBUS procedure normally follows a CT scan, which may have indicated chest abnormalities. The minimally-invasive EBUS technique enables a biopsy to determine if these abnormalities have spread to the lymph nodes and central lesions. If so, the cancer is then simultaneously diagnosed and staged.
A Greatly Improved Patient Experience
Dr. Robyn Scatena, MD, who frequently performs EBUS procedures at Norwalk Hospital, member of Western Connecticut Health Network, says, “because EBUS is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and stage cancer, it is often the first procedure we recommend for patients with suspected lung cancer.”
Patients typically spend around three to four hours in hospital from walking in to being wheeled out the door, with the actual EBUS procedure taking about one hour. The procedure involves general anesthesia and a breathing tube and ventilator. “Through the breathing tube I pass a bronchoscope with an ultrasound on the end. I ultrasound the lymph nodes while taking tiny biopsies with a needle and send samples to the lab,” Dr. Scatena explains about the procedure. Results are typically available after 5 to 7 days.
After the procedure, patients rest before going home. Most return to work and resume normal activities the day after. Some people may experience a sore throat, low-grade fever, or streaks of blood in their sputum; these symptoms generally last for a day or less.
Using EBUS to Manage Treatment Strategies
EBUS can also help manage treatment for patients already diagnosed with cancer by providing data about specific genetic abnormalities of the cancer. This information is used to determine how the cancer will respond to new targeted chemotherapies, which often have impressive results even in advanced stage cancer.
Patients with enlarged chest lymph nodes can also benefit from EBUS through its ability to collect samples to diagnose many varying conditions including infections and inflammatory conditions.
EBUS at Norwalk Hospital
EBUS procedures take place within our section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine which offers leading-edge treatments for a wide range of pulmonary conditions. Dr. Scatena is director of the sections nationally recognized, multi-award winning Intensive Care Unit and a trained specialist in endobronchial ultrasound.
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