08:08 AM

Technology spotlight: GPS for the lungs


Early physicians understood there was an important connection between the lungs and respiration and between life and breath. Some more creative physicians also believed that lungs play a key role in a person’s temperament - bold people have hot lungs, timid people have cold lungs. Regardless of temperament, it’s safe to say that science has come a long way in helping doctors better understand the function of the lungs and the inter-connectedness of the lungs and heart together.

At Kalispell Regional Healthcare, advanced diagnostic imaging is often used to “see” inside the body to avoid exploratory and unnecessary surgery. When it comes to the lungs, a bronchoscopy (scoping or looking at your bronchial airways) is a common method to get a better look. This procedure allows a peek into your lungs and air passages using a thin tube (bronchoscope) which passes through your nose or mouth, down your throat and into your lungs. When lung cancer is suspected, usually because of something unusual found on a chest X-ray, a needle biopsy through the ribs is not uncommon. A bronchoscopy can also be used to obtain samples of tissue. As you might imagine, threading a tiny catheter or tube through sponge-like airways is a very delicate procedure.

Now, KRH providers utilize the Veran SPiN System™, an advanced version of a bronchoscopy. This technology allows a doctor to take a virtual ride through the many lung canals to investigate abnormalities that may have been picked up on a CT scan. This route-finding technology is another option to diagnose abnormalities in the chest cavity and can precisely guide the doctor’s instruments using a 3D roadmap of the lungs. In simple terms, you could say it’s like GPS for the lungs.

The Veran SPiN System™ scans a patient’s lungs and creates a unique 3D roadmap for that person’s chest. Then physicians use this information to choose the best route to the target area that requires treatment or attention. While the provider guides the scope into the airways, electromagnetic patches taped to the bare chest of the patient act like GPS satellites to continuously guide and track the path to the target area. Pretty nifty stuff!

“This new tool merges three different technologies into one: CT scan, traditional bronchoscopy and guided catheter navigation. The benefits are really profound," explains John Federico, MD, of KRH Surgical Specialists. "We can give the appropriate care to patients due to better imaging; we can detect and treat lung cancer earlier because Veran technology can find a nodule at less than one centimeter in size versus three to four centimeters with past technology - which means better odds for the patient; and we help reduce unnecessary invasive surgery by looking inside with technology instead of surgical means.”

This is great news for anyone potentially facing lung cancer. It’s one more way that Kalispell Regional Healthcare is improving the health, comfort and lives of its neighbors in northwest Montana. To learn more about the services and technology related to heart and lung health check out the Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung website a krh.org/rmhl.