The sponge-like material of the lungs has millions of miniscule branches and tubes that make early and accurate diagnosis of lung lesions—especially in those areas beyond the reach of a traditional bronchoscope—particularly difficult. But treatment at an early stage is when patients have the best chance of a positive outcome.
SuperDimension, a Minneapolis-based medical device firm with a focus on lung disease, has created a system that allows doctors to see and treat areas of the lungs that were previously unreachable. The inReach System has several components, including a guide catheter, a steerable navigation catheter, planning and navigation software, and a computer and monitor.
A computed tomography scan—a series of X-rays that create a three-dimensional model—of the patient’s lung is imported into the software. The doctor uses this model to determine where the best place would be to obtain a tissue sample or treat a lesion. He or she inserts the disposable guide catheter and navigation catheter, which have a GPS-like location sensor used to send information to the computer, into the bronchial arteries. The sensor matches points within the lungs with the virtual image and uses it to guide the catheter into place. Tissue samples are collected by inserting endobronchial tools through the guide catheter.