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UPMC First in Central Pa. to Use Innovative Robotic Technology to Detect Lung Cancer Earlier

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Kelly McCall
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HARRISBURG, Pa. – More than 90% of people diagnosed with lung cancer do not survive the disease, in part because it often is found at an advanced stage. However, when diagnosed early, the average five-year survival rate is 92%. Now, new technology available at UPMC West Shore can diagnose lung cancer earlier. 


The Ion® by Intuitive, a new robotic-assisted system, allows specialists to use a minimally invasive endoscope to see inside the lungs, obtain a tissue sample for biopsy and enable earlier, more accurate diagnosis of small and hard-to-reach nodules in the periphery of the lung.


The technology integrates the latest advancements in robotics, software, data science and endoscopy, or the use of small cameras and tools to enter the body through its natural openings. UPMC West Shore is the first hospital in south central Pennsylvania to use this robotic-assisted platform for minimally invasive lung biopsy. Similar minimally invasive robotic-assisted systems are offered at UPMC Hamot in Erie and UPMC Passavant in Pittsburgh.


“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, in part because it has no symptoms in its early stages. This system holds potential to help us make a diagnosis earlier by providing improved reach, vision and control for bronchoscopic procedures,” said Troy Moritz, D.O., F.A.C.O.S., chief of thoracic surgery, UPMC Esophageal and Lung Surgery Institute. “Earlier diagnosis with this least-invasive approach aims to increase chances of survival and reduce unnecessary invasive diagnostic procedures.” 


There are a variety of diagnostic options currently available for lung cancer, but all have limitations in accuracy, safety or invasiveness. These limitations can lead to false positives, false negatives, or side effects such as pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and hemorrhage, which may increase health care costs and extend hospital stays. The Ion is designed to provide more reach, more stability and more precision for lung biopsy.


Moritz said that the device uses a familiar controller-like interface that is used to navigate the flexible robotic endoscope to the periphery of the lung. “Combining traditional endoscopic views into the lung with computer-assisted navigation and shape-sensing technology, the robot provides us with continuous confidence in accuracy for the entire procedure.”  


“We are excited to use this technology to offer a more hopeful future for our patients with lung cancer,” said Lou Baverso, UPMC Central Region president. “This is another example of UPMC leading the way with the most innovative technology that the health care industry offers.”