Hackensack University Medical Center Becomes First in New Jersey to Perform Revolutionary Minimally Invasive Robotic Lung Biopsy Procedure

July 13, 2020

Ion Approach Accesses Hard-to-Reach Lung Cancers with Precision

 On June 30, Hackensack University Medical Center became the first hospital in New Jersey to perform an innovative minimally invasive robotic-assisted technique to biopsy a suspected lung cancer. Called Ion, the novel technology enables thoracic surgeons to access hard-to-reach nodules, such as those in the outer periphery of the lungs. The new tool can help doctors identify lung cancers earlier than with existing technologies, allowing patients to start effective treatment sooner and obtain better outcomes.

More than 70% of lung nodules that need to be biopsied (analyzed to see if they are cancer) reside far out in the periphery of the lung, making them very difficult to biopsy using conventional bronchoscopy (a tube with a camera on its tip inserted through a patient’s mouth into the lungs). The Ion system combines computed tomography (CT) data and robotic-assisted surgical technology to facilitate and expedite access to these nodules. The entire procedure is performed through bronchoscopy, without the need for any external surgical incisions.

“Hackensack University Medical Center is committed to exploring the most advanced treatments and integrating them into the care of our patients,” explained Ihor Sawczuk, MD, FACS, president, Northern Region, and chief research officer, Hackensack Meridian Health. “The Ion system is an advanced tool that our surgeons have embraced to enhance lung cancer diagnosis and yield information that enables doctors to match patients with the most effective therapies as soon as possible.”

Here’s how Ion works:

  1. Using CT scan data of a patient’s lungs, doctors generate a three-dimensional image of the airways and its branches to identify the target nodule and create a preplanned path to reach it.
  2. During bronchoscopy, the thoracic surgeon uses the Ion controller to navigate an ultra-thin catheter along the preplanned path to the nodule. The flexible catheter has 180º articulation and is able to pass around tight turns into the branches of the lungs. The system allows the surgeon to know exactly where the catheter is in the patient’s lungs at all times, in real-time.
  3. Once the catheter reaches the nodule, robotic technology enables the surgeon to lock it in place. The surgeon extends the special Ion system needle through the catheter into the lesion to obtain a tissue sample to biopsy. This can be done more than once if needed.
  4. The surgeon withdraws the catheter and bronchoscope and sends the tissue sample to a pathologist to analyze for cancer cells.

The Ion system’s precision and flexibility optimize lung navigation and result in more accurate biopsies. Ion will be used to screen for and diagnosis lung cancer by providing more access to small airways or hard-to-reach nodules than other technologies, as well as for patients who cannot have surgery but need a lung biopsy.

“The use of the Ion system is another example of how Hackensack University Medical Center delivers the highest quality care and the best possible patient experience,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center and executive vice president of Population Health, Hackensack Meridian Health. “We are excited to be the first in the state to implement this technique in our armamentarium of lung cancer tools to improve care and benefit patients.”

“As thoracic surgeons, we are always seeking new ways to make care more efficient and effective for people with lung cancer,” said Nabil Rizk, MD, MS, MPH, chief, Thoracic Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Lung nodules in the outer reaches of the lung have long presented clinical challenges to biopsy, and the Ion system is a revolutionary approach we are eager to use to overcome these obstacles.”

The Ion system will integrate seamlessly into Hackensack University Medical Center’s existing bronchoscopy technology. It will also reduce the amount of procedures over the long-term and is expected to improve overall patient outcomes. To learn more about Ion, visit: https://www.intuitive.com/en-us/products-and-services/ion.

For more information, please email Katherine Emmanouilidis, Director of Communications, Northern Region at Hackensack Meridian Health, ke@hackensackmeridian.org.