New Lung Procedure at BBC a First in Southwest Michigan

September 12, 2012

Who knew more than 50 years ago that the satellites that were launched into space to provide communication information back on earth would one day offer a technology that could guide the hands of a skilled cancer surgeon?  But that is exactly what is happening today at Bronson Battle Creek.  

In 2010, Bronson Battle Creek cardiovascular thoracic surgeon Dr. Tammy Gleeson performed the first electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy procedure in Southwest Michigan to diagnose lung cancer.  This operation enabled her to examine the air passages of the lungs of her patient through a thin, fiber optic scope to diagnose lesions found there.

Using a GPS-like (global positioning system) navigation technology, unique sets of catheters are guided deep within and to the outer reaches of the lungs to examine peripheral lesions.  Once the lesions are reached, the surgeons can biopsy them, place radio-surgical markers for patients undergoing external beam radiation, or inject dye to provide visual guidance for robotic-assisted surgery.  

That innovative procedure began over two years ago.  Today an even newer and more advanced tool has been created and added to the BBC surgeons’ arsenals, again the first in Southwest Michigan, for diagnosing lung cancer, infections, and other inflammatory diseases in the chest.  It is called endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS).  The EBUS procedure allows physicians to obtain tissue or fluid samples from the lungs and surrounding lymph nodes in the chest without resorting to conventional invasive surgery, which can increase potential complications such as a collapsed lung.  

This specialized BBC outpatient surgery is performed on patients who are under anesthesia.  Then, a small, thin, flexible bronchoscope is passed into the mouth, through the trachea, and into the airways of the lungs.  Previously, an incision was made at the base of the neck and a scope inserted through it, increasing the chance for blood loss and infection.  

The new EBUS scope is equipped with an ultrasound device that searches out and produces images of the lymph nodes.  If a suspicious area is noticed, a painless biopsy is obtained with a needle.  That sample is then screened for possible irregularity of cells.  The entire procedure takes about 60 minutes.

“The EBUS is a remarkable improvement over previous procedures that involved invasive chest surgery and could require up to three to four days in the hospital,” said Dr. Gleeson.  “EBUS patients recover quickly and generally go home the same day.”

Using the EBUS allows surgeons to ‘visualize’ lymph nodes to biopsy more precisely.  “This means that we can take a sample tissue with higher accuracy without worry of hitting a blood vessel or missing a lymph node,” Dr. Gleeson continued.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women and men, and the second leading cause of cancer in the United States.  Last year, lung cancer killed more than 150,000 Americans. 

The earlier a disease is diagnosed, the more treatment options are available to patients.  The use of the endobronchial ultrasound is now a trusted ally allowing doctors to diagnose, stage, and treat thoracic cancers sooner, giving patients a higher rate of survival.  

“Anytime we can get the same or better information about a disease without more invasive intervention, is always good news for our patients,” concluded Dr. Gleeson.  “We can do that with this new EBUS procedure at Bronson Battle Creek.”

From outer space to the inner spaces of the human body, technology is helping BBC physicians detect and treat diseases that before often took lives prematurely.  Early diagnosis is more and more the key to a longer and healthier life.

Bronson Battle Creek has more multi-trained general and specialized surgeons using robotics and electromagnetic navigation technologies than any other facility in Southwest Michigan.  The robotic platform at BBC is being used in thoracic, colorectal, gynecological, urological surgeries, and in more general surgeries such as gallbladder removal.  The electromagnetic navigation system is used to assist with pulmonary-thoracic surgery and radiation oncology procedures.

Bronson Battle Creek is a 218-bed hospital that provides full outpatient and inpatient acute care including robotic surgery, diagnostics, and rehabilitation services; 100% all private rooms.  It also offers world-class diagnostic capabilities including PET/CT imaging, freestanding ‘open’ and traditional MRI, CT (16- and 64-slice), and 3.0 Tesla MRI.  Bronson Battle Creek has been recognized nationally as one of the safest hospitals, and has been a leader in the development of electronic health records as evidenced by multiple honors as one of America’s ‘most wired’ and ‘most wireless’ hospitals. The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons recognizes the Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center as a Comprehensive Community Cancer Program, and the only hospital in Michigan to receive the CoC’s Outstanding Achievement Award three times in a row. Specialty services include the county’s largest accredited sleep center and a wound-healing center with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

About Dr. Gleeson

Tammy L. Gleeson, DO, graduated from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri in 1996.  She completed her internship at Bi-County Community Hospital in Warren, Michigan and her residency in general surgery at St. John-Detroit Riverview Hospital.  She returned to Bi-County Community Hospital—Henry Ford Health System where she was awarded a fellowship in thoracic cardiovascular surgery in 2001.  She is board certified in cardiovascular thoracic surgery.

Dr. Gleeson is a member of the Bronson Battle Creek medical staff and has served as chair of the Department of Surgery and Trauma Committee.  She was the first surgeon in Southwest Michigan to us the daVinci® surgical robotic minimally invasive application, in addition to the superDimension® Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy® (ENB) ™ platform, and now the endobronchial ultrasound technology, which is offered at Bronson Battle Creek.


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