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New endobronchial ultrasound helps diagnose cancer

Baptist Health Paducah now offers an endoscopic bronchial ultrasound to provide a precise lung cancer diagnosis without surgery.

Endobronchial ultrasound can assess a patient’s lymph nodes and determine if lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Pulmonary medicine physician Keith Kelly, M.D., said patients with lung cancer may avoid more complicated surgery because this technique accurately shows the cancer stage.

He performed the first endobronchial ultrasound procedure at Baptist Health Paducah in late February.

“What this does is increase our ability to correctly diagnose and stage malignancies and other diseases involving the chest without having to resort to surgery to do it,” Dr. Kelly said.

 During the ultrasound, the patient is placed under general anesthesia while a small bronchoscope is passed down into the windpipe. The scope has a small instrument at its tip which can be pointed in different directions to produce images of lymph nodes and other structures in the area between the lungs.

Using the probe's detailed images, the physician is able to assess whether the cancer has spread by looking in areas of the chest where it's traditionally difficult to biopsy. If suspicious areas are seen – such as enlarged lymph nodes – a hollow needle can be passed through the bronchoscope and guided by ultrasound into the abnormal structures to obtain an aspiration biopsy.